Senator Tillis Announces Judiciary Committee Initiative on IP

December 27, 2019

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In a commentary letter posted on The Hill December 17th by Senator Thomas Tillis (R-N.C.) entitled Getting Back to Basics on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act  Tillis announced his intentions “to launch a major new initiative in the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property to explore ways we can better promote the creative economy in the 21st century.” Writing about the good intentions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, passed in 1998, Tillis suggested “The original DMCA was simply not designed for the kind of global data and advertising platforms that we have seen develop over time.” Noting work also being done by the Copyright Office, Tillis suggested “that Congress, and only Congress, can really fix this problem and truly modernize the DMCA.”

This may be true, and modernization is long overdue, but if recent Congressional hearings with Facebook, Google, Twitter, Reddit and other platforms are any indication, there is a steep learning curve for Congress to overcome, to achieve any meaningful changes. Tillis also noted upon reflection “And, for a time, it worked.”

Ask any copyright holder or licensor – the DMCA never worked. 

The core premise suggested by Tillis “The original DMCA sought to ensure that tech companies and creators would have a shared stake in each other’s success for the ultimate benefit of consumers, artists, and the American economy overall. ” was equally over optimistic. The core underpinning of the DMCA broke the longstanding responsibility of content creators and publishers to accept responsibility for their work – delinking accountability from creation and publication. Under the early impression that “platforms” like YouTube were simply pipes like telephone lines – when in reality they now curate, rank, edit, moderate and sell advertising against content – just like any publisher. The floodgates were open on Day 1 and previously unimaginable “scale” drove enormous profits for a few large tech companies at the expense of creators and their licensors. 

The DMLA, will continue to work tirelessly with our members, other creative associations, the Copyright Office and Congress – to change the conversation, and bring a level of accountability to the content ecosystem and future looking viable licensing system that benefits all. 

Read the full Tillis message here.