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 published an initial Notice of Inquiry on December 31, 2015, seeking written comments to thirty questions covering eight categories of topics. The Office received over 92,000 written submissions in response. Subsequently, in May 2016, the Office held two-day public roundtables in New York and San Francisco. The Office published a second Notice of Inquiry on November 8, 2016, seeking written comments to sixteen questions covering four topics, in addition to inviting the submission of empirical research studies assessing the operation of the safe harbor provisions on a quantitative or qualitative basis. The Office received seventy-nine written comments and nine empirical studies in response. The Office held another roundtable in Washington, DC on April 8, 2019. Information about the study, including the Notices of Inquiry, public comments, and transcripts of the public roundtables, may be accessed via the drop-down menu on the right of this page.