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The United States Copyright Office is now requesting public comments concerning section 512 of the DMCA, which covers the safe harbor provision and the notice and takedown system regarding infringing works. The purpose is to determine how well section 512 combats online infringement as well as how well it protects against bogus takedown notices.

This study of section 512 might be spurred on by the widespread criticism of the current notice and takedown system which is rife with abuse. To its credit, the Copyright Office does have a decent summary of the abuse of the system to censor works that are protected by fair use such as negative reviews. Although there is a counter notification process which can be used, the Copyright Office acknowledges that some users may be too intimidated to stand up to big corporations making claims against them. In other cases, such as during a political campaign, a temporary takedown is all that is being sought with a phony takedown request, and even if the counter notification process eventually restores the video, the purpose of the takedown was accomplished.

However the Copyright Office is also considering criticism from the other side, which is that the notice and takedown system is too burdensome on rights holders. Some have called for a notice and staydown system, so that once an infringing work has been identified by a rights holder, ISPs must actively police their sites to prevent the work from reappearing.

Another issue of interest to the Copyright Office is the requirement that ISPs must terminate service of repeat infringers. This leads to policies like Youtube’s, who deletes accounts which have three copyright strikes. This also is the basis for the recent ruling that Cox Communications was liable for copyright infringement over its networks because it did not terminate the accounts of alleged repeat infringers. The report notes that the DMCA itself is vague on this point, and has been left up to the courts to determine if each ISP’s repeat infringement policy is sufficient to qualify as a safe harbor.

Comments are open for 76 more days, so if you have any thoughts on this topic, head on over and let your voice be heard.

Are there any problems with section 512 of the DMCA, or is it fine the way it it? Leave your comments below.


Max Michael

Senior Writer

I’m a technology reporter located near the Innovation District of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.