Section 512 copyright act

The Copyright Office’s new system for registering designated agents for the service of take-down notices when it is believed that user-generated content infringes on intellectual property rights has now gone live. The Copyright Office issued a reminder, here, that all new registrations of agents for the service of these take-down notices must now be submitted in this new electronic system. We wrote more here about the new system and the new requirements for registration, including the requirement that all who are already registered on the old paper forms must re-register in the new system by December 31, 2017. This is important for all media companies who allow third-party users to post content on their sites – whether that content is written articles, photos, videos, music or any other material that could infringe on anyone’s rights under the Copyright Act. Registration is a pre-requisite of getting “safe-harbor” protection for companies who host such third-party content under Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. We discussed this issue in my seminar yesterday on legal issues for broadcasters in digital and social media, the slides from which will be posted shortly.

On Section 512, the safe harbor for those who host user-generated content, the Copyright Office last month issued a Request for Additional Comments in its study of the safe harbor. The safe harbor provides that, if an Internet service provider follows certain rules including the registration of an agent for take-down notices, and some unrelated party uses the service and posts or transmits unauthorized copyrighted material, the service has no liability. Exactly what requirements the service needs to observe depends on the type of the service. ISPs, who provide a mere conduit for material transmitted by others have one set of rules, while companies (including most media companies) that allow content to be posted on their sites to be viewed by the public, have another set of rules that place more obligations on these companies, including avoiding any steps to encourage the posting of infringing content, taking down infringing content of which they have actual notice or for which they have been received an uncontested take-down notice, and otherwise not affirmatively profiting from such infringing content. As part of its role of advising Congress on copyright issues, the Copyright Office began a study of the Section 512 exemption a year ago, which we wrote about here. Congress has also held hearings on the matter, and may well try to tackle it in its reform of the Copyright Act that is supposed to be in the works after the new Congress convenes in 2017. Last month’s request for additional comments suggests just how difficult that the reform of this section will be.
Continue Reading Copyright Office New Electronic Registration for Designated Agents for Take Down Notices Goes Live – and The Office Asks for More Comments on Assessing The Section 512 Safe Harbor for User-Generated Content

Section 512 of the Copyright Act provides a safe harbor for Internet service providers whose systems are used to transmit content created by third parties which infringes on copyrights.  The provisions apply not only to common-carrier like services that merely transmit third-party content, but also to websites and other digital services that allow users to post material onto the service provider’s own sites – services like YouTube or Facebook whose very businesses are built on the ability of individuals to posting material on their sites.  We’ve written about the safe harbor recently (see our articles here and here).  The safe harbor requires, among other things, that the service provider not encourage the posting of infringing content on the site, but also that it take-down infringing material found on the site, and that it provide a “Designated Agent” for service of “take-down notices” – requests from copyright holders that infringing material be taken down from the site.  That agent must be identified both on the website of the service and registered with the Copyright Office.  The Copyright Office today announced rules for a new electronic system for registering such Agents.

We wrote about the Copyright Office’s proposal advanced 5 years ago for the new system, and it appears that it has now become a reality.  Currently, service providers register a Designated Agent on a paper form filed with the Copyright Office, which the Copyright Office scans as a PDF file that is uploaded, individually, onto the Copyright Office’s website.  Many felt that this system was clumsy and did not provide the information necessary for the take-down system to work efficiently, as it was difficult to search and was often full of outdated information.  The new electronic system adopted by the Copyright Office and effective on December 1, is expected to remedy many of these complaints.
Continue Reading Copyright Office Announces Rules for New Electronic Filing System for Service Provider’s Designated Agents for Take-Down Notices Under Section 512 Safe Harbor for User-Generated Content

Both the popular and media trade press has been full of reports in the last few weeks about musicians and other artists petitioning the Copyright Office to hold YouTube and other online services liable for infringement when the artists’ copyrighted material appears on the service (see, e.g. the articles here and here). The complaints allege that these services are slow to pull infringing content and, even when that content is pulled from a website, it reappears soon thereafter, being re-posted to those services once again. While the news reports all cite the filings of various artists or artist groups, or copyright holders like the record labels, they don’t usually note the context in which these comments were filed – a review by the Copyright Office of Section 512 of the Copyright Act which protects internet service providers from copyright liability for the actions taken by users of their services (see the Notice of Inquiry launching the review here). All of these “petitions” mentioned in the press were just comments filed in the Copyright Office proceeding, where comments were due the week before last. The Copyright Office will also be holding two roundtable discussions of the issues raised by this proceeding next month, one in California and one in New York City (see the notice announcing these roundtables here). What is at issue in this inquiry?

Section 512 was adopted to protect differing types of internet service providers from copyright liability for material that uses their services. Section 512(a) protects ISPs from liability for material that passes through their systems. That section does not seem to be particularly controversial, as no one seems to question the insulation from liability of the provider of the “pipes” through which content passes – essentially a common carrier-like function of just providing the infrastructure through which messages are conveyed. Sheltered from liability by Section 512(b) are providers of systems caching – temporary storage of material sent by third-parties on a computer system maintained by a service provider, where the provider essentially provides cloud storage to third-parties using some automated system where the provider never reviews the content. That section also does not seem particularly controversial. Where the issues really seem to arise is in the safe harbor provided in Section 512(c) which is titled “Information residing on systems or networks at the direction of users” – what is commonly called “user-generated content.”
Continue Reading Copyright Office Reviews Section 512 Safe Harbor for Online User-Generated Content – The Differing Perceptions of Musicians and Other Copyright Holders and Online Service Providers on the Notice and Take-Down Process

The Copyright Office last week issued its Report to Congress on pre-1972 sound recordings (with an Executive Summary), addressing whether to bring these recordings under Federal law.  As we wrote last year when the Copyright Office solicited comments on the issues raised by this report, sound recordings (i.e. aural recordings embodied in some fixed form like a CD, record or digital file) created in the United States prior to 1972 are not protected under Federal copyright law.  Instead, any protections accorded to these sound recordings are under state laws.  Congress, at the request of a number of archivist and music library groups, asked that the Copyright Office review the issues that would be raised by bringing these sound recordings under Federal law.  Some archivists and librarians feared that, in preserving old recordings, they could run afoul of state copyright laws, and that a unified set of rules under Federal law might be easier to follow.  Why is this issue more broadly important to the music community?  For internet radio station operators, it is because the proposals to Federalize all such recordings could have an impact on digital performance royalties (as there does not appear to be any public performance right in sound recordings under state laws and, under current law, these recordings would not be covered under the SoundExchange royalties that most noninteractive services play).  The Report is also significant in that it raises questions about copyright laws dealing with user-generated content, specifically whether the DMCA safe harbor provisions protecting the operators of Internet service companies from copyright liability for the content posted by third parties apply to pre-1972 sound recordings.

This is only a report to Congress, and such reports have no binding impact.  Instead, they merely set out the position of the authors of the report from the Copyright Office.  Such reports are also cited as evidence in court cases as to what the Office believes the current state of the law to be.  The Office has written a number of reports over the years making suggestions about how copyrights should be administered and, given the complexity of copyright law and the competing interests affected by any revisions to the laws, many of their proposals have never been implemented.  This report suggests that pre-1972 sound recordings be brought under Federal laws.  Specifically, the report suggests that current copyright holders get protection for most pre-1972 works until 2067 (when state law protections are to run out under the current law, allowing the works to move into the public domain).  The protections would be accorded to works that are used by the copyright holder (sold at some reasonable price) and registered with the Copyright Office at some point after a law implementing its proposals became effective.  Works from prior to 1923 would be subject to a similar use and registration process, but would only get 25 years of additional protection.  Seemingly, protections for works that are not registered would pass into the public domain after the applicable registration period expires.  For some webcasting companies, this change could have an immediate impact.Continue Reading Copyright Office Report Recommends Federalization of Pre-1972 Sound Recordings – Possible Implications For Music Royalties and User-Generated Content