U.S. Copyright Review

In April 2013, Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va) announced that the House Judiciary Committee would conduct a comprehensive Congressional review of U.S. copyright law. Since then, the Committee has held 20 hearings which included testimony from 100 witnesses on several topics related to whether the current copyright laws are relevant and working today, and still support creativity and innovation. Following those hearings and in an effort to hear from more stakeholders, the Committee set out on a “listening tour” across America that included targeted sessions in Nashville, Silicon Valley and Los Angeles.  

IFTA participated in the Committee’s November 2015 listening session in Los Angeles, where Susan Cleary, IFTA Vice President & General Counsel, emphasized that specific government action is needed to combat infringement, highlighting the need for updated legislation to reflect today’s digital environment by strengthening the responsibility of the internet service providers (ISPs) in responding to notifications of infringement, especially in the case of pre-release piracy where any copy is presumed to be illegal and the acquisition of which was the result of a theft. IFTA also asked that the Committee establish a criminal felony penalty, already available for the large-scale downloading of unauthorized content, for large-scale streaming.

The Congressional review is expected to shift to more focused work on the potential for actual reform in the next Congressional session, likely still under the leadership of Chairman Goodlatte.

Separate from the House review process, the U.S. Copyright Office is also actively engaged in policy studies on certain areas of the law, including a study of Section 512 (Limitations on liability relating to material online) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

In April 2016, IFTA submitted comments to the Copyright Office in response to its Notice of Inquiry seeking input on the impact and effectiveness of the ISPs’ “safe harbor” from copyright infringement liability under Section 512. These provisions dictate what actions the ISPs must take and how quickly they must take them when notified of an infringing file found on their system. In its comments, IFTA confirmed its Members’ experience that “notice and takedown” alone are inadequate to combat piracy and argued in favor of requiring ISPs to adopt a “notice, take down and stay down” procedure as a condition for receiving protection from copyright liability. This procedure would require ISPs to continue to monitor and act on the original notice to take down subsequent appearances of the illicit file.

Following its comment period, the Copyright Office then held public roundtable discussions in New York and San Francisco to seek further input on its Section 512 study. Eric Cady, Senior Counsel, IFTA, participated in the San Francisco roundtable highlighting online infringement, and the lack of any effective way under the DMCA for rights holders to curtail it, as one of the main threats to the independent film and television industry. Mr. Cady reiterated IFTA’s call for a rebalanced approach to the safe harbors through updated legislation with a “notice, takedown and stay-down” framework to incentivize all stakeholders in the digital ecosystem to take effective and rapid action to mitigate online piracy, especially pre-release theft.

IFTA continues to follow these government reviews of U.S. Copyright Law and communicate to both the Legislative and Executive branches how a strong legal framework for copyright protection and enforcement is essential to provide a healthy environment for creativity and to conduct business.