ACA Seeks Help With Digital Millennium Copyright Act

The American Cable Association says its members are having trouble handling a flood of alerts alleging their subs are accessing online content that violates copyright protections and are looking for some help from the Copyright Office and Congress.

That came in comments to the Copyright Office, which is reviewing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) safe harbors. Those provide ISPs with copyright liability protections for their role in delivering digital content to subs.

ACA is particularly concerned about the impact of the Repeat Infringer Liability condition, which requires ISPs to respond to copyright holders' takedown notices for alleged infringing content.

Larger ISPs came up with the Copyright Alert System (CAS or "six strikes") of graduated notifications to infringing subs, but ACA says it "is beyond the technical and financial capability of many smaller and mid-sized providers."

But ACA says thanks to copyright owners' use of "'sniffers,' 'crawlers,' 'bots' and other like means to detect and identify (by IP address) individual instances of alleged infringement," ACA's members are getting dozens or even hundreds of such notices every day "indiscriminately alleging that their subscribers are intentionally engaging in infringing behavior."

ACA wants an approach that "establishes a common interpretation of the law’s requirements while allowing for variations in how an online service provider meets those obligations."

Among ACA's key asks:

"Require copyright owners use a standard format for any notices that allege infringement that do not demand cash settlements from Internet users;

"Require copyright owners to send notices to a specific email addresses;

"Adopt guidelines that distinguish between actions that are innocent from willful and circumstances and that specify when service can be restored to a previously terminated user; and

"Resist suggestions that subpoena provisions be expanded to apply to conduit service providers."

The goal of the safe harbors are to balance the need of copyright holders to protect their content in a world of instant digital copying and transmitting with ISPs need for some protection from liability for a business model that requires them to disseminate content from millions of sources to millions of subs.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.