Take down but don’t take away

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The Library Copyright Alliance (LCA)—of which ALA is a member—submitted comments (pdf) to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet regarding another hearing on copyright reform. This hearing concerned Section 512 of the copyright law (called the “notice-and-takedown” provision) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. This provision provides protection for internet service providers from liability for the infringing actions of network users. Libraries can be considered providers of network services when they provide wi-fi or other network services. Certain conditions, of course, must apply for the library to get this protection.

The primary requirement is for the library (as a service provider) to take down materials from networks and web sites when notified by the rights holders who claim infringement. [There’s a lot more one could say about this provision, but not today]. The Judiciary subcommittee has heard from rights holders (who complain that even with take downs, infringements continue and who want to see online service providers play a more active role in monitoring network activity), service providers (who receive millions of take down requests, some filed in error), artists (some who say they are losing money to piracy and others who say the Internet has boosted their careers), and first amendment groups (that are concerned about free speech).

The subcommittee (for the most part) believed that they should not change the copyright law to address concerns but rather want the stakeholders to work together to find solutions to limit piracy. Many mentioned their hesitance in government intervention. And, that’s actually good news, because clearly most members of the subcommittee do not have a clue on how the internet works or how search engines work. It seemed that many of the members thought that Google knew how to prevent piracy from happening in the first place. [Google is good, but not that good.]

LCA supports no change to the law and believes that section 512 has helped libraries provide online services without the specter of infringement hanging over their heads. We are concerned that changes to the takedown provision could lead to another SOPA where online services providers would be required to monitor its networks, identify alleged infringers, and face potential criminal prosecution for online streaming.

An additional copyright reform hearing is expected in the future. We’ll keep you posted!

Carrie Russell is the Director of the Program on Public Access to Information in the Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP). Her portfolio includes copyright, international copyright, accessibility, e-books and other public policy issues. She has a MLIS from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a MA in media arts from the University of Arizona. She can be reached via e-mail at crussell@alawash.org.

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