The U.S. Copyright Office has indicated that it will forego dismantling and replacing the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) for the time being.
Copyright Office officials made clear their position on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in a recent letter to Congress, addressing a bipartisan request from lawmakers seeking information about a full-scale replacement for the statute. The congressional request pertained specifically to swapping DMCA “takedown” notices with “stay-down” notices.
The Copyright Office’s letter pointed to the far-reaching questions associated with repealing the DMCA’s “safe harbor” protections, which spare content-sharing websites liability provided that they quickly remove unauthorized editions of media.
Noting that a “stay-down” copyright-infringement system hasn’t yet been implemented by any country (though the EU Copyright Directive will transfer copyright-infringement liability to companies beginning next July), the Copyright Office introduced several points in explaining the potential difficulty with administering the requirements in the U.S.
The pitfalls of stopping slightly modified versions of protected content from reaching digital platforms, discerning between “legitimate speech” and protected content, and other issues were among the subjects broached in the Copyright Office’s correspondence.
Lastly, the federal agency indicated that it will monitor the European Union’s Directive’s “stay-down” system. It also encouraged lawmakers to do the same before drafting legislation to supplant the DMCA, which was signed into law 22 years back.
Under the Copyright Directive, each of the European Union’s 27 member nations are responsible for designing (and enforcing) plans to hold digital platforms accountable for featuring unauthorized editions of copyrighted content. In this vein, German lawmakers are currently discussing the possibility of utilizing automated “shields” to prevent users from uploading and sharing protected media.
However, the nuances of this possible “shield” are playing a major part in conversations, especially in terms of misidentifying non-protected content, misidentifying parody content, and other such obstacles.
Similarly, some have pointed to the Copyright Directive’s potential to cause a spike in piracy on websites and platforms outside the content-sharing sphere. We reported on the heightened prevalence of piracy during the COVID-19 pandemic’s early days. Plus, over 40 percent of Denmark’s residents have admitted to illegally downloading/streaming content during the last year (despite a drop in music piracy specifically).
To be sure, while U.S. piracy rates are among the highest in the world based upon total website visits and downloads, several European nations feature notably higher piracy rates as a percentage of the total population.
As a share of overall consumers, Spain has a 64 percent piracy rate, Poland comes in at 52 percent, and France places third with 40 percent, according to one study. Sweden, The Netherlands, Great Britain (which won’t be implementing the EU Copyright Directive), and Germany trail France closely.