Why the DMCA is ready for the next chapter of innovation

Twenty years ago, the notion that most Americans would begin their morning by going online – checking their email, posting a personal update or photo, or completing an online purchase, all before finishing their morning coffee – was almost implausible. Today, more than a quarter of Americans report that they are online “almost constantly” with their always-connected phones and tablets. The Internet, and popular sites like Amazon, Facebook, OneDrive, Pinterest, Twitter and many others we can’t imagine living without, exist and flourish because Congress saw fit to create a safe harbor framework of Section 512 of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

The U.S. Copyright Office recently invited public comment on the impact and effectiveness of Section 512 of the DMCA. Microsoft has provided our views, reflecting our multiple roles and experiences as copyright owner, online service provider and as a platform facilitating access to copyrighted works. Informed by these diverse perspectives, Microsoft believes that no legislative changes to the current DMCA framework are needed. In our view, Section 512 has proven flexible and capable of adapting to the scale and pace of online innovation.

Today, we sit on the cusp of another wave of innovation, one that will again revolutionize how we work, how we communicate and how we interact with information and with each other. Smarter devices, digital assistants, cloud computing, and the growing “Internet of Things” digital economy all rely on the DMCA’s “rules of the road,” and as these technologies evolve, the DMCA’s carefully balanced rules will continue to be essential in providing the legal certainty and operational clarity as to the allocation of liabilities and responsibilities appropriate for copyright owners, online service providers and users.

The overwhelming majority of online conduct is beneficial, for individuals and for society, and is legitimate. Yet piracy from some sources continues to be a challenge for rights holders, including Microsoft. The DMCA’s established balance – allocating to rights holders the responsibility of identifying infringing uses of their works and to service providers the responsibility to act expeditiously to remove or block access to infringing material – has fostered both creativity and innovation in the digital age. As a responsible service provider, Microsoft is committed to cooperating with rights holders in combatting online infringement. The DMCA plays an essential role in facilitating such cooperation.

In enacting the DMCA, Congress recognized that voluntary and collaborative measures undertaken in partnership between rights holders and service providers held the key to ensuring future flexibility of the DMCA framework. Through our own efforts as both copyright owner and online service provider, Microsoft has seen how these kinds of collaborations can be successful and agile in combatting pirates who are constantly changing their tactics, while ensuring that access to legitimate material is not impacted.

We welcome the role of the Copyright Office in continuing to work with all stakeholders to promote voluntary collaboration, and to explore effective, data-driven enforcement measures targeting bad actors that flout the DMCA, intent on infringing copyright for financial gain.

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