When online services have infringing movies, music, books, or other works placed there by their users, what should they be required to do? In 1998, Congress passed a statute (the Digital Millennium Copyright Act) that created a notice-and-takedown system: online service providers (OSPs) would disable access to infringing works when they knew about them through a proper notice from a copyright holder, or when the service provider has actual knowledge or is aware of facts or circumstances from which infringing activity is apparent, and in return would face a limitation on remedies in the event that a copyright infringement suit was filed. Of course, the internet looks very different now than it did in 1998. The early offerings of CompuServe and AOL pale in comparison to modern cloud computing services. Works can be placed back online within seconds of an OSP taking them down, and a single web site can receive thousands of notices for the same work in a matter of weeks.
And too often, OSPs have adopted a “see no evil” posture that makes the system adversarial and ineffective. The result is a burden for both copyright owners and service providers, and as SIIA recently explained to the Copyright Office, the system is showing signs of strain.
Nonetheless, when it works at its best, the system is a cooperative one in which copyright owners and service providers support each other in removing infringing copies from the internet. This week, Facebook joined YouTube and other responsible service providers in implementing cooperative technology that enables copyright owners from having to play an endless game of “whack-a-mole”. Facebook’s measure, called “Rights Manager” enables copyright owners to identify works with Facebook and set the terms under which those works can be shared, and the locations allowed to share them.
This is what progress looks like.