Public Knowledge Policy Counsel Meredith Rose will testify before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee at noon ET Wednesday, September 30. Her testimony in the hearing, “Copyright and the Internet in 2020: Reactions to the Copyright Office’s Report on the Efficacy of 17 U.S.C. § 512 After Two Decades,” will warn Congress not to reduce the debate on Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to “Big Tech” vs “Big Entertainment” — jeopardizing internet users’ free speech in the process.
Section 512 of the DMCA shields online services and ISPs from liability for copyright infringement committed by users, provided they follow certain technical requirements.
The testimony argues that any discussion on “rebalancing” Section 512 should keep our nation’s more than 229 million internet users and their ability to speak freely at front of mind. Terminating an individual’s broadband access because of a suspected copyright infringement during a pandemic also cuts off entire households. As the testimony explains, “broadband access… impact[s] Americans’ ability to speak online.”
The following is an excerpt from the testimony:
“Two hundred and twenty-nine million Americans use the internet each day. That’s 229 million American adults using the internet to work, worship, connect with family and friends, receive healthcare, consume and discuss the news, and organize political action each and every day. The laws we debate here set the rules for that speech. The ability of these 229 million users to speak freely online must be the first motivating priority of any reform to copyright liability.
“The Federal Communications Commission has found that Americans use broadband ‘for every facet of daily life.’ Despite this, it is the position of large rightsholders that their unvetted allegations of a civil offense are sufficient to cut an entire household off from the internet. Alarmingly, courts have largely gone along with this argument.
“Congress must abandon the idea that copyright debates are mere sniping between rightsholders and platforms. The speech interest of every American internet user is directly in the crossfire. If we are to strike any sort of ‘new balance,’ it must center our nation’s internet users and their ability to speak freely — not merely the administrative convenience of major industries.
“Two hundred and twenty-nine million American adults live their lives online under the shadow cast by Section 512. This push for reform, which would be difficult in a good year, comes at a time when we are all attempting to navigate uncharted waters. Whatever the risks, whatever the rewards, we cannot be reckless in our approach. Congress must acknowledge that this debate is not happening in a vacuum, and reject the reduction of stakeholders down to the strawmen of ‘Big Tech’ and ‘Content.’ Broadband access, algorithmic governance, and economic incentive structures all impact Americans’ ability to speak online. In a moment of massive social change, we must not take that for granted.”
You may view our testimony for more information.
Members of the media may contact Communications Director Shiva Stella with inquiries, interview requests, or to join the Public Knowledge press list at firstname.lastname@example.org or 405-249-9435.