Administration to step back for copyright talks

Department of Commerce officials said Thursday that their agencies will not be directing a set of talks between tech companies and content creators aimed at improving the country’s copyright system.

“You stakeholders will determine the success and outcome of the process, not the government,” Angela Simpson, deputy assistant secretary at the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

A daylong meeting Thursday kicked off the stakeholder process to improve the “notice and takedown system,” under the current copyright law, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

That system keeps Internet platforms from being held responsible for infringement they facilitate if they remove infringing content when notified by copyright holders that it exists. 

Internet companies say they have to pour time and energy into processing and responding to an overwhelming number of takedown requests, while copyright holders say the system puts the onus on them to “police the Internet” to find infringement.

Two Commerce Department agencies, the NTIA and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), are hosting a multi-meeting stakeholder process aimed at improving this system.

Despite the fact that the Commerce Department is hosting the talks, the government agencies will not dictate the process’ outcome, officials said.

“We will not impose upon you over views concerning copyright, the [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] or the notice and takedown system,” Simpson said.

“By sitting down together to work through these challenges, you guys can create solutions that can be both effective and workable,” she added, encouraging stakeholders to “disagree without being disagreeable.”

Shira Perlmutter, chief policy officer at the PTO, encouraged stakeholders to work through the Commerce Department’s process before asking Congress to step in.

“I would see urge that we see what we can accomplish here first,” she said.