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Signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1998, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) aimed to ready copyright law for the digital age.
The law introduced a safe harbor for Internet services, meaning that they can’t be held liable for their pirating users as long as they properly process takedown notices and deal with repeat infringers.
However, in recent years copyright holders, Internet services and the public in general have signaled various shortcomings. On the one hand, rightsholders believe that the law doesn’t do enough to protect creators, while the opposing side warns of increased censorship and abuse.
To hear the growing concerns from all sides the U.S. Copyright Office launched a public consultation in order to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the DMCA’s safe harbor provisions.
A few hours ago a broad coalition of 400 artists and music groups, including the RIAA, Music Publishers Association and A2IM submitted their response. The 70-page brief provides a comprehensive overview of what the music industry sees as the DMCA shortcomings while calling for significant reform.
“The Music Community’s list of frustrations with the DMCA is long,” the groups write, adding that “a law that might have made sense in 1998 is now not only obsolete but actually harmful.”
The music industry’s comments focus heavily on search engines, Google in particular. In recent years music companies have sent hundreds of millions of takedown notices to Google, but despite these efforts, copyright infringing material is still topping many search results.
“The notice-and-takedown system has proved an ineffective tool for the volume of unauthorized digital music available, something akin to bailing out an ocean with a teaspoon,” they write.
“Copyright owners should not be required to engage in the endless game of sending repeat takedown notices to protect their works, simply because another or the
same infringement of the initially noticed work appears at a marginally different URL than the first time.”
The music groups are calling for advanced technologies and processes to ensure that infringing content doesn’t reappear elsewhere once it’s removed, a so-called “notice and stay down” approach.
This includes audio fingerprinting technologies, hash-matching technologies, meta-data correlations and the removal of links that point to content which has been taken down already.
“The current standard of ‘URL by URL’ takedown does not make sense in a world where there is an infinite supply of URLs,” the groups add.
Another problem with the DMCA, according to the music companies, is that the safe harbor provision also protects sites that are clearly profiting from copyright infringement.
Describing it as a “get out of jail free” card for many dubious sites, RIAA and the others demand change.
“At its worst, the DMCA safe harbors have become a business plan for profiting off of stolen content; at best, the system is a de facto government subsidy enriching some digital services at the expense of creators. This almost 20 year-old, 20th Century law should be updated,” they write.
The music industry groups note that these and other issues have turned the DMCA law into a “dysfunctional relic,” and are calling on Congress to take action and come up with a copyright law that better protects their interests.
The anti-DMCA comments submitted to the U.S. Government are the strongest we’ve seen thus far, but more responses are expected to be published after the deadline passes today.
Where most copyright holders call for stricter anti-piracy measures, many Internet services and activists are expected to focus on the increase on DMCA abuse and censorship.
In addition, Fight for the Future just launched a campaign page, helping the public to inform the Copyright Office that DMCA abuses should be stopped. The campaign generated over 50,000 comments in a day, ‘crashing’ the Government’s website.
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The U.S. Government is currently running a public consultation to evaluate the effectiveness of the DMCA’s Safe Harbor provisions, including issues around automated takedown requests and potential abuse.
The deadline for comments expires tonight and despite being announced three months ago, it only generated a few dozen responses until yesterday.
That quickly changed when Fight for the Future (FFTF) and the popular YouTube channel Channel Awesome got involved. They launched a campaign urging the public to speak out against DMCA takedown abuse and censorship yesterday afternoon, generating an overwhelming response.
By this morning the campaign video had been viewed 170,000 times, and the buzz triggered 50,000 comments to the Copyright Office, submitted through the form hosted at TakedownAbuse.org.
“The flood of new submissions over the last several hours appears to have repeatedly crashed the website that the government set up to receive feedback,” FFTF writes.
Due to the massive response, many submitted comments are now waiting in a queue, prompting the activist group to call for an extension of the consultation’s deadline.
“The DMCA affects all Internet users and they should have an opportunity to express their concerns with the ways content is censored from the Internet, causing damage to free speech that can’t be undone,” FFTF co-founder Tiffiniy Cheng says.
“The Copyright Office has a responsibility to make sure these voices are heard. They need to extend the deadline and make sure their website stays up and can receive comments the entire time.”
The comments the campaign site allows people to send to the Copyright Office urge Congress to impose statutory damages for rightholders that abuse the DMCA takedown process or fail to take fair use into account. In addition, they call for a discouragement of automated takedown systems, including YouTube’s Content-ID system.
Given the high number of submissions generated by the campaign, it will be interesting to see what conclusions the Copyright Office will draw after the review is completed.
Channel Awesome’s campaign video
For those interested in the pressures placed on large sites by governments, law enforcement, litigious third parties and copyright holders, transparency reports are wonderful things.
Published on an annual or even daily basis in the case of Google, these reports disclose information to the public relating to court-ordered requests for user data through to the removal of allegedly copyright infringing content.
Here at TF we’re generally confronted with the latter, with Google’s Transparency Report providing a goldmine of information that would ordinarily be kept out of the public eye. In fact, it’s quite possible that the publication of this report will help to shape future legislation, with both Google and copyright holders currently relying on the data to lobby for change and/or the status quo.
With the importance of transparency reports established, it’s always nice to see new companies jumping on board. Following Google’s first publication in 2010, Twitter followed in 2012 and they’re now joined by a multitude of companies from Microsoft and Facebook to Cloudflare.
In early 2015, Reddit produced its first report covering the previous 12 months which revealed that the site rejects 62% of all copyright complaints. However, other than that the report was light on copyright data, something the site is now working to address.
Noting that in 2015 the site received a large number of requests to remove content under the DMCA, Reddit’s operators say they’re now working on tools to provide more transparency.
“To cope with Reddit’s rate of growth in 2015 and the subsequent spike in the number of takedown requests received, we have dedicated significant time and resources to build internal tools to allow us to accurately track the number and types of requests that we are receiving,” the site reveals in its latest report.
“This is an ongoing project, which we hope to be able to refine, so that we can be transparent with our users, on how much content we takedown on the site. For perspective, from January 1, 2016 to February 29, 2016, we received approximately 190 requests to remove content under the DMCA. 5% of these requests required us to remove content from the site.”
How sites respond to takedown notices under the DMCA is of huge interest at the moment, with copyright holders keen to tighten up the legislation and those on the receiving end often torn between taking content down to avoid liability while considering crucial issues such as fair use. For its part, Reddit likes to do things properly.
“Each DMCA takedown notice is reviewed carefully and, in circumstances where content is actually hosted on our servers, we assess whether the existence of the content on Reddit can fall under an exception, such as ‘fair use’ of the copyrighted material,” the site explains.
“If we believe that the existence of the content can be defended or falls under an exception under copyright law, then we may request further information from the requesting party that will assist us in our review.”
More transparency is always a good thing as it helps to understand the dilemmas faced by those on all sides of the copyright debate. Reddit’s report will be a welcome addition.
“We are hopeful that our newly implemented method of tracking requests will put us in a position where we can provide you with confirmation of more accurate information regarding DMCA requests that are received throughout 2016 and how we responded to them,” the site concludes.
Update: It appears that Reddit’s warrant canary has been removed from this year’s transparency report which is causing speculation that the site is currently the subject of a national security letter.
“I’ve been advised not to say anything one way or the other,” says Reddit admin ‘spez’. “Even with the canaries, we’re treading a fine line.”
More discussion here
As predicted a few months ago, The Pirate Bay will roll out a new design for the site this year.
This week a reader spotted the following .css file on Pastebin, suggesting that The Pirate Bay will launch a green on black look later this month, something the TPB crew confirmed today.
“Yes, after more than a decade it’s time for something fresh. We’re still ironing out a few minor bugs but the design should go live in a week or two,” Pirate Bay’s Winston tells TorrentFreak.
While the user interface will remain mostly intact, the change is quite dramatic. The TPB team was kind enough to share two of the latest mockups, revealing a command-line inspired look.
Aside from the cosmetic change, the redesign also has an ulterior motive.
“We spend most of our time looking at the command line, so for us the change is natural. But the new design also aims to lower the global power consumption by decreasing the demands on our user’s monitors.”
“We’ll therefore rename the site into ‘The Green Bay’ once we go live, just for the lulz,” Winston adds.
TPB’s new design
The theory behind the lower energy consumption is simple. Dark websites demand a tiny bit less energy from monitors than light ones, which adds up for a site that generates roughly a billion pageviews per month.
While the effectiveness of this type of energy saving up for debate, the idea itself is not new. A dark version of Google, Blackle, made headlines all across the Internet a few years ago with a similar idea.
And if that’s not good enough, the TPB team has some other tips in store to save the planet.
“Our users tend to be very climate aware. One of the main reasons to download the latest movies is so they don’t have to pump too much carbon into the atmosphere by driving their car to the movie theaters,” Winston notes.
In addition to The Pirate Bay, KickassTorrents is also working on a new look. The site already updated its homepage for non-registered users a few weeks ago, going for a more basic white look. The rest of the site is expected to follow soon.
The Pirate Bay team doesn’t have a hard date for the design launch yet, but it’s expected to go live later this month.