Eagles songwriter Don Henley has urged Congress to ‘Take It to the Limit’ to protect artists from online pirating, wading into a copyright fight pitting Hollywood and the recording industry against big tech platforms like Google’s YouTube.
The blockbuster hitmaker of the 1970s testified online from his home before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee weighing possible changes to a 1998 copyright law.
The law allows holders of copyrighted material to formally ask parties they believe have taken their content without permission to remove it.
The parties can dispute the claim. If they comply promptly with the request, there are no legal consequences. Otherwise, they may be subject to criminal penalties.
Henley said the law is weak and needs to be changed to make it more effective in stopping online piracy.
The so-called “notice and takedown” system under the copyright law is used by the movie and recording industries, entertainment software makers and book authors to pursue tech platforms, universities and other facilitators of file-sharing.
Henley called the copyright law “a relic of a MySpace era in a TikTok world.”
With hundreds of millions of takedown notices sent, for every link taken down, “a dozen more pop up in its place,” he said. The system “still allows Big Tech to rake in revenue” after repeated copyright infringements, Henley said.
The copyright battle is being spotlighted in Congress at a time when US tech giants are in an escalating feud with President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers, who accuse platforms such as Twitter, Google and Facebook of suppressing conservative viewpoints.
The dispute boiled over last week when Twitter attached warnings to some of Trump’s tweets, on mail-in voting and the use of force against people protesting the police killing of George Floyd.
Trump, who is Twitter’s most prominent user, responded by issuing an executive order intended to chip away at the tech platforms’ legal shield for speech content they carry.
In the debate over online pirating, the subcommittee chairman, Senator Thom Tillis, Republican, made his leanings clear.
He said creative industries have been “absolutely decimated” by the economic fall-out of the pandemic as well as online pirating of copyrighted material that hasn’t slowed down.
“Piracy has become easier and faster and much, much more common,” Tillis said. “The current system is failing and it’s failing badly.”
Entertainment industries have been pushing tech platforms to do more themselves to police content that violates copyright.
Internet companies say they have worked actively with the creative industries to block access to illegal content and protect the copyrights.
Jonathan Berroya, interim president and CEO of the major trade group Internet Association, testified that the “overwhelming majority” of copyright infringement takes place on foreign tech platforms outside the reach of US law and is not conducted by US companies.
Berroya said tech companies do not want to profit from illegally taken content.