By , October 28, 2011.

“The bill in Congress now, critics say, goes much too far … the Internet’s potential as a source of public education and free expression could be crippled … [it] could instead turn out to be the executioner of the Internet’s real promise.” 1Gary Chapman, Copyright Bill Would Infringe on the Internet’s Real Promise, Los Angeles Times (May 20, 1996).

The bill referred to above is not the House rogue sites legislation unveiled this week, but the DMCA — the quote was written over 15 years ago. You could say today’s criticisms are simply “remixes” of the same criticisms heard every time new copyright legislation is proposed, but remixes involve at least some originality.

In other news …

Protect IP Act: Minorities Who Produce It, Should Get Paid For It — Dorrissa D. Griffin highlights a little-discussed aspect of copyright. Though content theft affects all creators, minorities are hit especially hard. Black artists, especially musicians, have historically struggled to be fairly compensated for their creative contributions. Griffin explains, “Fortunately, the recording industry has greatly reformed its practices, making it an exemplar of equal opportunity.  However, this has not been the case in the online world, where today’s Internet pirates simply copy and use copyrighted material without permission or remorse. Minority artists are impacted the most by this kind of theft because minority artists, writers and filmmakers often have little wealth (the wealth gap being as vast as it is) – except for their intellectual property. And once that gets stolen, nothing is left.”

Priorities and Special Projects of the United States Copyright Office October 2011 – October 2013 (PDF) — The US Copyright Office this week released its plan for the next 2 years, outlining 17 priorities and 10 special projects. Ambitious and commendable.

Backbeat: Robert Levine, David Carr Trade (Friendly) Barbs Over Levine’s New Book, ‘Free Ride’ — Levine’s Free Ride: How Digital Parasites are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back hit the US stands this week. Billboard shares this interesting discussion between the author and NY Times columnist David Carr at a recent panel discussion.

The Role of the Record Producer and Why We Need PROTECT IP/Stop Online Piracy Act by Luke Ebbin — MusicTechPolicy provides this guest post from record producer Luke Ebbin. Ebbin notes that the “new” music business world is an exciting and promising one for both musicians and fans. But in order to ensure its promises, “a fair and equitable market-based solution needs to be developed and enforced to protect the rights of the owner of the master recordings.”

What is so special about music? — I’ve been following researcher Paul Lamere’s work on music recommendation over the past several years, finding it fascinating. Here, he talks about the things that separate music from other forms of media, making it difficult to apply the same techniques for recommending, say, books to recommending music.

Google’s Spreading Tentacles of Influence — Businessweek reports on Google’s ramping up of traditional lobbying — the corporation hired its 16th lobbyist firm this week and has spent over $5 million on lobbying so far this year — as well as its “preferred way” of spreading money to public interest groups. Good article, though they missed an opportunity with the metaphor in the title — I would have used something that involves crawling rather than spreading.


1 Gary Chapman, Copyright Bill Would Infringe on the Internet’s Real Promise, Los Angeles Times (May 20, 1996).


  1. Terry,

    You could also have noted the rich irony that the very same groups (CEA, etc.) who predicted the DMCA would kill the Internet and technological innovation now claim that the DMCA is responsible for the flowering of technological innovation online. So, not only do they recycle their predictions of doom with every new copyright bill, but they completely reverse their historical positions when it suits them. They may try to rehabilitate their destroyed credibility by claiming they opposed the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA, while their hosannahs are reserved for the ISP liability provisions, but they were all part of the same legislation. And regardless, their calamitous predictions never came to pass.

  2. Your dismissal of SOPA’s critics by comparing our concerns to early arguments about what became the DMCA is clever and provocative, but misleading. The 1996 editorial you cite refers not to the final legislation, but to an early draft that would have added “transmission” into the 106(3) distribution right, instantly making all ISPs quite likely liable for infringing content transmitted over their networks. In fact, what became the DMCA was the result of a years-long negotiation to strike the right balance between fighting infringement and promoting investment in the Internet—a negotiation that led to the opposite result: the 512 safe harbor protects ISPs from liability with respect to transmissions they don’t initiate or modify. This is a much different result, and it has served both sides relatively well.

    SOPA would radically upset this balance. Its definitions are so broad that legitimate sites that are otherwise rightly protected by the DMCA’s safe harbors could find themselves blocked in the DNS, blacklisted in search engines, or starved of financial support.

    Are there foreign sites that evade effective enforcement? Yes. But there are ways to take targeted action against them without throwing out the balance struck by the DMCA in the process.

    • Andrew, the DMCA does indeed need to be reformed.

      Here’s a thread on a music site you might like to enlighten yourself with:
      [url=] 10,000 take-down notices later… [/url]

    • Oh come on, DMCA opponents railed for years even AFTER it passed that it would kill innovation. A quick Google search reveals post-enactment predictions of doom from Gary Shapiro of CEA, Ed Black of CCIA, and many, many others. For example, in 2003, Gary said “Currently, the DMCA is being used to stifle innovation and injure consumers.”

      Or Ed Black’s comment in 2002 on the DMCA: “even with the ameliorative changes we were able to achieve, we were nonetheless concerned that some of the remaining provisions would have the effect of stifling free speech and innovation, hallmarks of the research process.”

      And there are many many other such comments about the DMCA as enacted stifling innovation.

      Your representation of Section 512 ISP liability limitations as a balanced negotiation is nice revisionist history, but way, way off the mark. Section 512 was added because ISP took the DMCA hostage, and refused to let it go unless they got provisions to escape from the liability they had under EXISTING law and court cases (RTC v. Netcom, Sega v. Maphia, Playboy v. Frena). So, Section 512 was a huge payoff to ISPs that rightholders had to choke down in order to get the anti-circumvention provisions in the bill. It has not worked well for both communities; quite to the contrary, it has been distorted by the courts to cover a whole range of Internet businesses that were never contemplated.