In the midst of pandemic and protest, the Senate Judiciary Committee continued on with the third of many planned hearings about copyright. It is an odd moment to be considering whether or not the notice-and-takedown system laid out by Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is working or not, but since Section 512 is a cornerstone of the Internet and because protestors and those at home trying to avoid disease depend on the Internet, we watched it.
There was not a lot said at the hearing that we have not heard before. Major media and entertainment companies want Big Tech companies to implement copyright filters. Notice and takedown is burdensome to them, and they believe that technologists surely have a magic solution to the complicated problem of reconciling free expression with copyright that they simply have not implemented because Section 512 doesn’t require them to.
Artists have real problems and real concerns. In many sectors, including publishing and music, profits are high, but after the oligopolists of media and technology have taken their cut, there’s little left for artists. But the emphasis on Section 512 as the problem is misplaced and doesn’t ultimately serve artists. Before the DMCA created a way to take down material by sending a notice to platforms, the only remedy was to go to court. DMCA takedowns, by comparison, are as simple as sending email—or hiring an outside company to send emails on an artist’s behalf. The call for more Internet