Changes to copyright liability calculus counterproductive

ALA – as part of the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) – submitted a second round of comments in the Copyright Office’s study on the effectiveness of the notice and takedown provisions of Section 512. In its comments, LCA argues that the effectiveness of federal policies to improve access to information and enhance education (such as the National Broadband Plan adopted by the FCC in 2010, ConnectEd and the expansion of the E-rate program) would have been seriously compromised without Section 512. Accordingly, LCA again opposes changes to Section 512 not required by the DMCA and which could upset the present balance that the statute attempts to strike between the protection of copyrighted information and its necessary free flow and access over the internet.

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Photo credit: Pixabay

Last year the U.S. Copyright Office initiated separate inquiries into several aspects of copyright law relevant to libraries, their users and the public in general. One such important proceeding asked for comment on the part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that provides internet service providers (ISPs) and others with a “safe harbor” from secondary copyright liability if they comply with a process that’s become known as “notice and takedown.”

Specifically, Section 512 protects online service providers from liability for the infringing actions of others who use online networks. Libraries are included in this safe harbor because they offer broadband and open access computing to the public. Because of the safe harbor, libraries have been able to provide broadband services to millions of people without the fear of being sued for onerous damages because of infringing user activity.

The Copyright Office has not yet announced a timeline for publication of its findings or recommendations regarding Section 512.


About Adam Eisgrau

Adam Eisgrau is a 30-year veteran of Washington legal practice, government service, public and private sector lobbying, and strategic communications and policy consulting. Having originally served as its first Legislative Counsel from 1995 to 1999 handling digital copyright matters, Adam rejoined ALA’s Washington Office in September 2014 as Managing Director of the Office of Government Relations. His issue portfolio currently includes Copyright, Privacy & Surveillance, Cybersecurity, Encryption and Data Security. Adam received a BA in American Studies from Dartmouth College and his JD from Harvard Law School.

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