Internet group warns against 'radical changes' in copyright review

Internet group warns against 'radical changes' in copyright review
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A group representing Internet companies like Google and Facebook told a federal office on Friday that protecting companies from litigation as long as they police copyright violations works to ensure adequate copyright protection online.

The comments concern a legal provision — known as section 512 — that shields service providers from liability for hosting or transmitting content that infringes on copyright, as long as they adequately deal with such violations. The law created a system of notices that users can file to ask a website to take down content that they believe violates copyright.

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The Internet Association filed comments with the U.S. Copyright Office on Friday morning saying that its “member companies depend on the certainty and clarity in Section 512 to provide users and creators access to a broad diversity of content available on a variety of platforms.”

“Radical changes to the existing safe harbors would chill incentives to invest and innovate at a time when both are sorely needed globally,” said association president Michael Beckerman in a Medium post.

“Changes that increase the burden on intermediaries would also likely create the unintended consequence of building a regulatory moat around existing Internet platforms. On the other side of this regulatory moat would be smaller startups that do not have access to the capital needed to hire sophisticated compliance teams.”

The comments are part of a Copyright Office proceeding looking into the effectiveness of the provision.

But others say that the provision, put in place in the 1990s as part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, isn’t strong enough.

Many companies use automated systems to manage requests that content be taken down because it violates copyright. Some allege that entities can abuse these systems to stifle speech that should be covered under fair use, the idea that individuals can use copyrighted material in a “transformative” way that parodies or otherwise comments on its contents.

“Balance is desperately needed in the notice and takedown system. One step to creating that balance is to impose statutory damages for companies that abuse the DMCA takedown process or fail to adhere to any fair use review,” says a form comment users can submit through a website hosted by advocacy group Fight for the Future. “In particular, automated takedowns must be discouraged as they inhibit free speech and fair use of copyrighted works.”

Fight for the Future has also asked the Copyright Office to extend its deadlines for submissions.