Content Industry: Do Away with DMCA Safe Harbors

Lora Bentley

When I talked to intellectual property attorney Jim Burger earlier this year, he explained why he thinks the entertainment industry needs to rethink the way it does business in this digital age. He said:

The content industry has had this wonderful "ipso facto" correlation argument which, actually, on the correlation basis, is wrong...[They say,] "Because of Internet piracy, we lose $81 billion and 170,000 jobs from the U.S. economy."... That means people didn't spend $81 billion on content. What did they do with the money? Did they burn it, bury it or stuff it in their mattress? No. They saved it, invested it, or bought other things with it. It all went into the economy somehow.

Consumers' spending habits are changing, so rather than stick their heads in the sand, he said, recording industry executives should address the trend and think about changing the business to meet consumers where they are.

 

But Burger is one of very few who have voiced this view. The Recording Industry Association of America is certainly still focused on combating piracy. In fact, RIAA President Cary Sherman recently advocated doing away with the safe harbor provisions in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act so that the record labels don't have to bear the burden of policing file-sharing sites for their content. According to Ars Technica, Sherman told conference attendees:

The DMCA isn't working for content people at all. You cannot monitor all the infringements on the Internet. It's simply not possible. We don't have the ability to search all the places infringing content appears, such as cyberlockers like RapidShare.

Eagles drummer Don Henley made similar comments in a Rolling Stone interview, Ars writer Nate Anderson points out.

 

Unfortunately, I don't see the laws on this issue changing any time soon. Even if Congress had a mind to tackle the issue now, nothing happens quickly in Washington. And don't forget the courts just upheld a pretty broad reading of the safe harbor provisions in the Viacom v. YouTube case.



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