Citing a major uptick in Internet piracy, the Authors Guild is urging Congress to require that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) monitor and filter their networks for pirated works. Among the proposed changes to copyright law suggested in a letter addressed to the House Judiciary Committee, Guild officials want to replace the current "Notice and Takedown" regime authorized by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) with a "Notice and Stay Down" provision.
Under the Guild’s proposal, ISP’s who do not take "reasonable measures" to keep "all infringing copies” from their networks would lose their "safe harbor" immunity from claims of infringement.
The DMCA "safe harbor" provision shields Internet service providers from liability for the infringing behavior of its users, including those who might post unauthorized portions or entire books online. Under current law, copyright owners are required to send notices for each allegedly infringing copy, a process the Guild calls ineffective and “Sisyphean,” as pirated copies that are taken down "are usually put right back up," the Guild contends.
In its letter, the Guild cites AAP claims that the publishing industry loses $80 to $100 million to piracy annually, and argues that their proposal simply asks ISPs to “cooperate with copyright owners” in efforts to keep infringing works off the Internet.
The proposal is sure to be met by opposition not only from ISPs, but other groups, who argue that determining copyright ownership is often complex, and there is no easy way to filter networks without impinging on the rights of the public.
Notably, in a recently settled case filed by Viacom against Google over videos posted to YouTube, Judge Louis Stanton praised Google for its handling of DMCA infringement complaints. "The present case shows that the DMCA notification regime works,” Stanton wrote in a 2010 decision dismissing Viacom's case. "When Viacom over a period of months accumulated some 100,000 videos and then sent one mass takedown notice on February 2, 2007, by the next business day YouTube had removed virtually all of them."
Stanton's decision to dismiss the Viacom case was reversed on appeal, however, and ordered to go to trial. The parties then entered into a private settlement last year, and that trial never happened.
The Guild argues that the takedown process Stanton praised in 2010 does not work for individual authors, who lack the resources to track and send notices for every infringement, and the bargaining power of big corporations to make private deals. "The result," the Guild letter asserts, "is that the Notice and Takedown regime is just not working."
Guild officials insist that the technology exists for ISPs to combat piracy on their networks. "It is technology that has enabled the pirate marketplace to flourish," the letter states, "and it is technology alone that has the capacity to keep it in check."
The letter comes as Congress is considering possible revisions to the Copyright Act, and on the heels of a proposal, backed by the Authors Guild, to establish the U.S. Copyright Office as an independent agency.