The U.S. Copyright Office announced that it is undertaking a public study of the country’s safe harbor provisions. Section 512 was introduced in 1998 as part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and its safe harbor laws provide some liability limitations on usage for Internet-based services. The rules focus on protecting services from liability due to copyright infringements occurring in user-generated content, such as video or audio creations. To qualify for safe harbor protections, the online platform usually needs to offer a process for quickly addressing any infringements in uploaded material. The Copyright Office will undertake a review of the impact and effectiveness of the existing safe harbor provisions, including the costs and burdens of the notice-and-takedown process for copyright owners of all sizes, online service providers, and the general public.
Althought the Copyright Office does not have policy-making power, its research and reports have served as fodder for the discussions around copyright and music in this digital age. YouTube and SoundCloud are most commonly cited as platforms that benefit from safe harbors, since they offer a system for content sharing that has a risk of members infringing on copyrights by including protected music in a video, remix, or other artistic creation. Many from the business side of the music industry have criticized the lenience shown to those services, and want to see stricter rules apply to them since they may be profiting from ad revenue or other monetization that isn’t shared with the rights holder. High-profile leaders from the IFPI, the British Phonographic Industry, and PRS for Music have called for changes to safe harbor rules as applied to streaming.