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The Digital Millennium Copyright Act Revisited: Keeping Music Policy Modern
In 1998, Chumbawamba topped the charts, MySpace was created, and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was enacted to, "manage piracy risks and encourage the creative industries to "experiment, innovate, and benefit from the digital revolution," according to one of its writers, former Congressman, and a past Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Lamar Smith (R-Texas). Twenty-two years later, this core intention of the DMCA remains, even as the music industry and technology it governs have changed.
But keeping the DCMA relevant takes work. On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Intellectual Property (IP) Subcommittee held its first DMCA hearing titled “The Digital Millennium Copyright Act at 22: What Is It, Why Was It Enacted, and Where Are We Now?” with the aim of exploring ways the U.S. can better promote the creative economy in the 21st century.
The Senate’s IP Subcommittee heard from two panels and a total of eight witnesses. Chairman Thom Tillis (R-NC) kicked things off by, "discussing DMCA’s origins and stated that the hearings are intended to result in finding a bicameral and bipartisan solution to update the legislation. Ranking Member Chris Coons (D-Del.) addressed piracy, pointed out the DMCA was enacted before Google existed, and stated digital video piracy costs the U.S. economy $29 billion and 250,000 jobs per year, not small amounts.
The first panel set context for the DMCA's genesis with testimony from those who created it. The discussion focused on shining light on the rationale for the policy and how they envisioned the policy growing over time. The second panel looked at the reality of the DMCA today and addressed the shortcomings of the legislation in practice on a legal basis, while discussing the gaps that exist under the law.
True to Chairman Tillis' intent for the hearing, the juxtaposition of the two panels, one focused on its origin and one on its modern applicability, provided for dynamic perspective to understand the purpose of the DMCA and its current reality in full before introducing any updates or modifications. In this spirit, Chairman Tillis and Ranking Member Coons will conduct a series of hearings to examine both the current status of DMCA and the current practices and operations of platforms and creators.
The thorough review of the DCMA comes just one week after a new report showed streaming giant YouTube continues to demonstrate disparity between massive growth as a platform and woeful support of creators.
Keeping music licensing legislation current is not easy. Through revisiting our major policies, the way this week's hearing looked deeper into the DMCA, we can ensure music creators of the past, present and the future get a fair chance at fair compensation.