Testimony of Sean M. O’Connor, Professor of Law and Founding Director, Entrepreneurial Law Clinic, University of Washington (Seattle)
Before the Committee on the Judiciary
Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet
Notice and Takedown Provisions under the DMCA, § 512
March 13, 2014
Chairman Goodlatte, Chairman Coble, Ranking Member Nadler, Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today about the current state of notice and takedown provisions under the DMCA.
I am a law professor at the University of Washington in Seattle and the Founding Director of its Entrepreneurial Law Clinic. We deliver a full range of corporate, IP, and tax services, focusing on business planning and transactions, to start-ups, artists, and nonprofits. I have also served as Director of UW Law School’s Law, Technology & Arts Group and its Law, Business & Entrepreneurship Program. I currently also serve on the Academic Advisory Board of the Copyright Alliance. Before academia, I was a full time attorney at major law firms in New York and Boston. I have continued an active private legal practice, with current social media clients such as Kolidr, and was General Counsel to Rhizome.org, a nonprofit arts organization for the digital and net art community. Before law school I was a professional musician and songwriter for 12 years, receiving airplay on college and commercial stations in the Northeast. Because of my multiple affiliations, it is especially important to state that my views here are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of any of the organizations I am or have been affiliated with.
The current litigation over the Innocence of Muslims video provides a timeliness to the hearing today, as the dispute started with a takedown notice from the actress, Cindy Garcia, to YouTube demanding that it remove the infamous video from its site. Putting aside the more complicated issues in that case, one of the defenses offered by Google (the owner of YouTube) was quite telling. Google asserted that taking down the video from YouTube would provide little relief to Ms. Garcia because it was so widely available on the Internet. Whatever the practical truth of this contention, Google’s claim that relief from infringing online content is essentially impossible reflects a common, disturbing narrative that we live in a post-copyright world where everything is available everywhere and there is nothing we can really do about it.
This attitude is both a cause and a result of the main failure of the notice and takedown system that I want to address today: the relentless reposting of blatantly infringing material. This is not material that the poster believes he has rights to, either by ownership, license, or transformative fair use. It is simply posted as an end run around copyright law for fun or profit. This end run is largely made possible by notice and takedown and the safe harbor for online service providers.