This week, the Internet Archive submitted a letter in response to a set of questions posed by Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) regarding potential reforms to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the law that provides a safe harbor against copyright liability for Internet services who abide by notice and takedown obligations. The Senator’s questions indicate that he is interested in potentially broad changes to not only the DMCA, but to copyright law more generally. His letter states “[r]ather than tinker around the edges of existing provisions, I believe Congress should reform copyright law’s framework to better encourage the creation of copyrightable works and to protect users and consumers making lawful uses of copyrighted goods and software-enabled products, respectively.” The emphasis on ensuring that the law protects users and consumers is welcome, as concern for Internet users was almost entirely absent from the US Copyright Office report on the DMCA that was issued this past summer.
In our response, we express our concern that drastic changes to the notice and takedown provisions of the DMCA:
“Could have disproportionately negative impacts on public service non–profits such as the Internet Archive and our patrons. The Internet Archive is first and foremost a library. We use technology and the Internet to deliver valuable services and collections to the public. The Internet Archive’s goal of being a steward of knowledge is facilitated by the safe harbors, which shield us from liability for the occasional user who uploads infringing content, while allowing the vast majority of legal content to remain accessible.
Therefore, we provide these responses as an online service provider that hosts so-called “user generated content” and as a library with a mission to preserve and provide public access to cultural materials. In our view, while the DMCA system is not perfect, it generally works well and serves its intended purpose. As such, any substantial changes should be discouraged, including the controversial and untested “notice and stay down” system discussed in the Copyright Office report.”
You can read our full letter here.
We wish to express our appreciation to the law students at the New York University Technology Law & Policy Clinic for their deft assistance researching and drafting these public comments. It is our pleasure to partner with the next generation of legal scholars who will help shape the future of copyright law.
As always, we invite our patrons and the community of rightsholders who share their digital works with the Internet Archive to express your comments and suggestions.