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RIAA increasingly unhappy with DMCA

By | Published on Thursday 10 November 2011


A legal rep for the Recording Industry Association Of America has confirmed that the trade body’s members are increasingly frustrated with the way the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is being interpreted by the US courts, and that they might want to start lobbying US Congress to refine the Act at some point in the future.

According to CNet, Jennifer Pariser made the comments at a recent law conference in New York, though she stressed no actual lobbying on this matter is currently taking place.

America’s DMCA was a bit of post-internet copyright legislation designed to balance the rights of content owners with those of technology companies who were afraid of liability for copyright infringement if their technology was used by others to infringe. It’s the DMCA that provides so called safe-harbour protection to some technology providers, and in particular sets in stone the principle that content-sharing services like YouTube cannot be liable for copyright infringement, even if they inadvertently host infringing content, providing they have a system in place by which a content owner can order infringing material be removed.

Although YouTube now has a pretty damn effective takedown system in place with technology which, in theory at least, means content owners no longer have to monitor the platform 24/7 to spot infringing uploads, many of its competitors – who also plead DMCA protection – have much less efficient and effective systems in place. The problem is it’s not clear how good a takedown system has to be in order for the safe harbour protection to kick in – though the ruling in Viacom v YouTube, based on the rather shoddy takedown system the video sharing platform operating in its early days, implied the quality thresholds are quite low.

That is almost certainly one of the areas where the RIAA believes the courts are incorrectly interpreting the DMCA, and where some legislative clarification may be needed. As previously reported, Grooveshark claims it is not liable for copyright infringement – despite hosting large amounts of unlicensed content on its system – because of the DMCA takedown provisions. But many in the industry are dismissive of Grooveshark’s commitment to its takedown system (some going so far as to claim it doesn’t actually operate one at all), and if it looks like a court may side with the Groovesharkers, that would almost certainly be enough for the major labels to start urging Congress to refine the DMCA safe-harbour clauses.