Section 512 Study


The United States Copyright Office is undertaking a public study to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the safe harbor provisions contained in section 512 of title 17, United States Code.


Enacted in 1998 as part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), section 512 established a system for copyright owners and online entities to address online infringement, including limitations on liability for compliant service providers to help foster the growth of internet-based services. Congress intended for copyright owners and internet service providers to cooperate to detect and address copyright infringements. To qualify for protection from infringement liability, a service provider must fulfill certain requirements, generally consisting of implementing measures to expeditiously address online copyright infringement.


While Congress understood that it would be essential to address online infringement as the internet continued to grow, it may have been difficult to anticipate the online world as we now know it, where each day users upload hundreds of millions of photos, videos and other items, and service providers receive over a million notices of alleged infringement. The growth of the internet has highlighted issues concerning section 512 that appear ripe for study. Accordingly, as recommended by the Register of Copyrights, Maria A. Pallante, in testimony and requested by Ranking Member Conyers at an April 2015 House Judiciary Committee hearing, the Office is initiating a study to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of section 512 and has issued a Notice of Inquiry requesting public comment. Among other issues, the Office will consider the costs and burdens of the notice-and-takedown process on large- and small-scale copyright owners, online service providers, and the general public. The Office will also review how successfully section 512 addresses online infringement and protects against improper takedown notices.


The Office received over 92,000 initial submissions by the April 1, 2016 deadline for initial comments. The Office will be holding public roundtables on May 2nd and 3rd in New York and May 12th and 13th in San Francisco to seek further input on the section 512 study.