Movie industry: With online piracy, takedown 'must mean stay down'

The Motion Picture Association of American (MPAA) repeated its calls for fixes to the current system for combatting online piracy and expressed optimism the system could be improved through a series of discussions with Internet companies being convened by the Commerce Department. 

"We must create best practices that will allow the Internet to live up to its potential of fostering creativity and innovation, while also protecting the work of all kinds of creators," Ben Sheffner, the entertainment industry group's vice president of legal affairs, wrote in a blog post Friday.

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On Thursday, the Department of Commerce held the first in a series of meetings with copyright holders and Internet companies aimed at the "notice and takedown" system under current law. Through that system, Internet companies are not held responsible for users' copyright infringement if the companies remove infringing material when rightsholders bring it to their attention.

Internet companies say they spend considerable time and energy processing and responding to these takedown requests, but copyright holders say they have to spend considerable time and energy monitoring the Internet for infringement that resurfaces as soon as it's taken down.

Protections for Internet companies under copyright law are "being used as a free pass, making it a shield from taking responsibility to help the content community curb online infringement," Sheffner wrote.

The blog post described the "Whac-A-Mole" game that rightsholders play to keep repopulating infringement at bay.

"Takedown must mean stay down," he said, adding that stakeholders at Thursday's Commerce meeting "recognized that the notice-and-takedown process must become both more efficient and more effective."

He commended the Internet community for its "wide representation," "positive spirit" and "earnest" participation.

Sheffner pointed to existing agreements between the entertainment industry and Internet companies, including the Copyright Alert System, through which major Internet providers notify users when their accounts are being used to share infringing content.

"We have already shown that these types of initiatives are not only possible, but present great opportunities for stakeholders to come together and find common ground," he wrote.