Copyright Office Calls for Changes to Section 512 Safe Harbor System

Written May 26, 2020

The US Copyright Office on May 21, 2020, announced that it completed its public study to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the safe harbor provisions contained in section 512 of title 17, United States Code. This is the first government study of the effectiveness of the notice-and-takedown system since its enactment over twenty years ago.

The Office concluded that the operation of the section 512 safe harbor system today is unbalanced. The Report highlights areas where current implementation of section 512 is out of sync with Congress’ original intent, including: eligibility qualifications for the service provider safe harbors, repeat infringer policies, knowledge requirement standards, specificity within takedown notices, non-standard notice requirements, subpoenas, and injunctions. The Office does not recommend any wholesale changes to section 512, but instead identifies certain areas where Congress may wish to fine-tune section 512’s current operation in order to better balance the rights and responsibilities of online service providers and rightsholders in the creative industries.