OTW Legal at New York Copyright Office Roundtable Discussion


Rebecca Tushnet, Georgetown Professor of Law and OTW Legal Staffer, participated in the May 2nd and 3rd New York Section 512 Study Roundtables, which are held by the U.S. Copyright Office. These roundtables are part of the Copyright Office’s inquiry into the effectiveness of section 512 of the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act. At the roundtables, Tushnet joined others in answering the Copyright Office’s questions about what copyright-prevention standards should govern websites that host user-generated content.

Right now, there is a safe harbor that protects websites that host user-generated content, as long as those websites operate notice-and-takedown systems. While some people would like to see the law changed to require mandatory filtering of the internet, as well as to require users to fill out a form before posting a video or picture as a pledge that they aren’t infringing copyright, the Organization for Transformative Works and a number of other organizations oppose these proposals.

While current law isn’t perfect, and voluntary filtering like YouTube’s Content ID has plenty of problems, the OTW believes that it would be much worse to make all legitimate sites filter — it would end up screening out too much valuable non-infringing content, and the proposed changes still wouldn’t prevent sites outside the United States from hosting material that infringes on copyrights.

“Now that (the Roundtables are) over,” Tushnet says, “I can basically report that there’s a lot of division here, and the Copyright Office seemed highly sympathetic to the idea that large sites, at least, should be forced to use filtering technologies to avoid copyright infringement by users, regardless of users’ potential fair use claims, with fair use considered only if you were willing to appeal a filtering decision and potentially expose yourself to a lawsuit. I don’t think this is a promising approach, and I think it’s important that the OTW will continue to speak for fans and other creators who aren’t in favor of filtering.”

Summaries of the panels are available at Professor Tushnet’s blog, tushnet.blogspot.com

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