Throughout 2015, the myriad of music copyright infringement lawsuits donning headlines presented an industry theme: music copyright law has failed to adequately adapt to the digital age that has been ushered in by rapid technological advances. Perhaps as a response, the U.S. Copyright Office has announced it will conduct a public study of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s “safe harbor” provisions to assess the costs and burdens that copyright owners and digital service providers bear in the DMCA’s “notice-and-takedown process.” Currently, the safe harbor provisions provide legal protection for providers and platforms, like YouTube, in that they are only legally obligated to take down their user’s infringing content if they are aware of its infringing nature. This means it is often the rights holder’s responsibility to initiate the process by issuing a formal takedown request to digital providers. Rights holders have increasingly critiqued this process, especially smaller labels and unsigned artists, as they often lack the necessary resources to police the internet for infringing content and successfully have the content permanently removed. The Copyright Office is accepting public comment on the matter until March 21 and the biggest players in the music industry will undoubtedly try to use this opportunity to shape the contours of the future digital music rights landscape.
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