Hearings

Rayburn House Office Building 2141

Chairman Bob Goodlatte

Chairman Goodlatte: “Good morning. Enacted in 1998 at a time when bulletin boards were still a popular destination for many Americans, Section 512 was designed to achieve two important policy goals that were crucial to the success of the Internet:

1. Enabling good faith online service providers to operate without risk of liability for the actions of their users, and

    2. Enabling copyright owners to quickly remove infringing online content without flooding the courts with litigation.

      “These two goals have mostly been met with the rapid growth of the online economy. However, like all legislation related to technology, issues have arisen that were not anticipated during the drafting and enactment of Section 512. These issues have posed challenges that have led some to call for updates to 512. As the Committee undertakes its review of copyright law, the time is right to consider these issues and proposed solutions to them.

      “Our witnesses today will mention issues of interest to them, and I am interested in delving into three issues in particular. The first is referred to as the whack-a-mole game by copyright owners. By most accounts, good faith service providers have acted expeditiously in responding to Section 512 notices by removing or disabling links to infringing content.

      “However, copyright owners are increasingly facing a scenario that simply wasn’t anticipated during the enactment of 512 - the need of copyright owners to send a voluminous amount of notices seeking removal of infringing content followed by the almost immediate reappearance of the same infringing content. In an interesting twist, different groups point to the same statistics showing the mammoth amount of notices being sent today as proof of either the system working as designed or the system not working as designed.

      “A second issue that has been raised is the quality of the notices and the impact upon other important legal doctrines such as fair use and the First Amendment. While there is little disagreement over the need to expeditiously remove clearly infringing content, how Section 512 intersects with these other legal doctrines is subject to court cases still underway.

      “Finally, some have begun to engage in behavior that abuses the rationale for Section 512 by sending outright fraudulent notices with little risk for penalties being imposed upon them for their actions. Although the number of such cases appears to be low percentage-wise, this Committee should consider ways to reduce such blatant abuse.

      “Section 512 was the product of balancing a number of interests to resolve various issues to improve the copyright system for all. As the Committee conducts its review of our copyright system, we should keep this consensus model in mind while examining challenges and potential solutions.

      “I appreciate the willingness of the witnesses to testify this morning, and look forward to their testimonies.”

       

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