Monday, August 2, 2010

The DMCA's Safe Harbor May Only Provide Commercial Entities a One Business Day Grace Period to Remove Infringing Content

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) does not state how long an Internet Service Provider (ISP)/Online Service Provider (OSP) has to respond to a claim of copyright infringement. According to the U.S. Copyright Office, "[u]pon receipt of a compliant notification of claimed infringement, a service provider must respond expeditiously to remove, or disable access to, the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of the infringing activity, if the service provider seeks to receive the benefits of the limitations of liability contained in § 512(c)".

Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, defines expeditiously to mean "marked by or acting with prompt efficiency." According to Wikipedia's entry for the "Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act, "[f]or a commercially run on-line provider taking action within the hour to tell a customer that a takedown notice has been received and informing them that they must immediately remove the content and confirm removal, giving them six to twelve hours to comply; and otherwise informing them that the content will be taken down or their Internet connection terminated, may be considered reasonable."

There is no controlling case law that provides black letter law regarding the DMCA's definition of expeditiously. However, it was noted in Viacom Int'l Inc. v. YouTube, Inc., 07 Civ. 2103 (LLS) (S.D.N.Y. June 23, 2010) that when YouTube received from Viacom one mass take-down notice for 100,000 videos within one business day almost all of the infringing content was removed. Viacom's take-down notice was sent on February 2, 2007, which is more than three and half years ago. Since this mass take-down, advances in technology have made it easier to detect and remove infringing content.

Since YouTube, a commercial entity, had the resources to remove allegedly infringing content within one business day more than three and a half years ago, it is not onerous for commercial entities to abide by a one business day rule today. At first glance, it may sound onerous for a web site to be forced to remove allegedly infringing content within one business day. However, in a matter of hours a popular movie, book, or other original work may be downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. These downloads may cause serious irreparable financial harm to copyright holders.

According to the Senate Report about the DMCA (S. Rep. 105-190 at 44), "[b]ecause the factual circumstances and technical parameters may vary from case to case, it is not possible to identify a uniform time limit for expeditious action." In my opinion, this indicates that a non-profit may be held to a different less onerous standard than a commercial entity. Since S. Rep 105-190 was created, technology has drastically changed and I do not believe it was the intent of the Senate to provide ISPs/OSPs wide latitude to remove infringing content at their leisure when even a minor delay in removal may cause serious financial repercussions to rights holders.

The DMCA's safe harbor provision is already tilted heavily in favor of ISPs/OSPs. Therefore, to level the playing field it is time for either Congress or the courts to declare that under the DMCA commercial entities have one business day to remove infringing content.

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Copyright 2010 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting point, Bradley, and plaintiffs may argue that the takedown did not meet the statutory standard, but I think that courts will look at the facts of the situation to see just how hard the defendant tried to comply with takedown requirements. Certainly there has to be time for the defendnt to review the information included in the takedown notice. Some are concerned with the response of the people who put up the (allegedly) infringing content.

    We are seeing two other problems arising:

    1. Companies mandating a written and mailed takedown request rather than one that is simply emailed.

    2. Companies claiming Safe Harbor protection when they do not fit the statutory definition of those entitled to it. This is especially interesting (and problematic) for non-US companies. In those cases, a plaintiff may have a better argument in a non-US court.