RIAA can't search for copyright violators; still wants Web sites to help

The Recording industry says the Digital Millennium Copyright Act isn't working anymore. And it still want web sites to help identify copyright violators.

Will Hollywood ever be satisfied?

It was only a few months ago that a district court judge credited the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for working "efficiently" as part of the ruling in the Viacom vs. YouTube case.

That ruling found that YouTube was complying with takedown notices from copyright holders when informed of copyright violations. That's a key element of the DMCA because it keeps the burden of proof of copyright violations on the right party: the copyright holder.

After all, it's a tall order to expect YouTube to determine which copyrighted works on the site are there in violation of copyrights and which ones are not. Many copyright holders put their copyrighted work on YouTube for the exposure.

Now, RIAA President Cary Sherman, while speaking at a conference in Colorado this week, said that the DMCA is no longer working for content creators and later suggested, in response to a question, that the matter be put before Congress, according to a CNET report. Sherman said:

The DMCA isn't working for content people at all. You cannot monitor all the infringements on the Internet. It's simply not possible. We don't have the ability to search all the places infringing content appears, such as cyberlockers like [file-hosting firm]

Sherman maintains that the 1998 Act has loopholes that allow broadband providers and Web companies to skirt past the law and disregard the illegal activities of their customers.

Give me a break.

By his own admission, Sherman is saying that the Internet is so vast that it's impossible to police it - and yet he expects individual Web sites to do it for him. And let's be frank about this: if the RIAA doesn't "have the ability" to look for infringing content, that sounds like a problem that RIAA should be addressing by either beefing up its enforcement efforts or investing in technology to help address this problem. It certainly shouldn't be the responsibility of a Web site operator or broadband provider to use its resources to search for violations of someone else's copyright.

And it's not Washington's place to make these Web site operators do this either. And Sherman seems to be backpedaling on that part. In an update to the CNET post, Sherman clarified that he's not seeking new legislation. Congressional action would only be necessary, he said, to "formalize a voluntary deal with partners such as broadband providers."

Huh?  Why would it take an act of Congress to "formalize a voluntary deal?" First of all, I can't imagine why broadband providers or Web companies would ever agree to change something that 1) the RIAA asked for and 2) a judge said is working just fine. Still, if RIAA can cut a deal with the broadband providers and Web sites and it's a voluntary deal, can't some lawyers just draw up some papers to formalize it. After all, we know the RIAA has plenty of those - lawyers, that is.

Here's a thought: quit paying those same lawyers to sue people and start shifting some of those dollars from the legal budget into technology to help identify violators. If search engines can find a way to index the entire Internet and startups like Shazam can create mobile apps to identify a song just by "listening" to it, then I'm sure there's some technology out there to help the RIAA with its problem.

If there isn't any such technology, then... well, entrepreneurs, here's your chance to develop some technology for a group that desperately needs it.

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