Copyright Owners Bear the Brunt of Protecting Against Piracy, 512(c) Report Finds

On May 21, 2020, the United States Copyright Office published its long awaited 512 (c) report and issued recommendations. 

The Copyright Office’s report looks at Congress’ intent in enacting the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which offered service providers safe harbors to provide incentives for internet platforms and copyright owners to cooperate in order to detect and deal with copyright infringements in the online environment. The Report looks at that balance in light of the changes in the internet in the past 20-plus years and concludes that the current operation of the section 512 safe harbor system is unbalanced, with copyright owners bearing too much of the burden to deter piracy. 

The Copyright Office makes several recommendations for Congress to consider and highlights areas where current implementation of section 512 does not align with Congress’ original intent. 

The areas examined by the Copyright Office include:

  • eligibility qualifications for the service provider safe harbors; 
  • repeat infringer policies; 
  • knowledge requirement standards; 
  • specificity within takedown notices; 
  • non-standard notice requirements; 
  • subpoenas; 
  • and injunctions.  

The report does not suggest Congress make wholesale changes to section 512 but suggests Congress revisit language and make modifications. It also points to practices that have not been used enough, encouraging more voluntary cooperation among all stakeholders to create standard, technical measures to reduce piracy plus reliance on notice and takedown letters. Further study also is recommended.

The full report, along with the extensive public comments, empirical studies and roundtable transcripts, is available on the Copyright Office’s website at copyright.gov/policy/section512/.

DMLA participated in roundtable hearings and filed responses to Copyright Office requests for comments during the period of the study on behalf of the digital media licensing industry.

Nancy Wolff, DMLA Legal Counsel