The hearing was held to mull possible changes to the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and Henley spoke specifically on the need to update the DMCA’s “notice and takedown” system. That process allows copyright holders to send a takedown notice to websites or services they believe have posted their content without permission. The offending party can either comply without any consequences or risk legal action.
For Henley, however, that process is no longer suitable, with the musician describing it as “a relic of a MySpace era in a TikTok world.” He argued in his remarks that the current deluge of content uploaded to the internet each day makes it practically impossible for artists to combat copyright infringement, and that for “each infringing link or file taken down, a dozen more pop up in its place.”
He added, “[D]ue to the antiquated procedures dictated by the DMCA, internet services with clear oversight and control of content posted on their websites are continuing to monetize and collect advertising revenue on videos containing music, even after that music has been flagged by the music creator as infringing. How is that a fair bargain?”
Henley claimed that websites are more than capable of monitoring for copyright infringement and providing content owners with more effective tools, but actively choose not to. “These tech giants are afraid that blocking infringing content will reduce traffic, and reducing traffic decreases their ad revenue,” he said. “Instead of focusing on platform improvements that drive consumer satisfaction, they rely on copyrighted material — whether licensed or not — to keep consumers engaged. With the DMCA as cover, these companies simply have no incentive to improve technological protection measures.”
During the hearing, a bipartisan group of senators seemed to agree that the copyright laws required an update. “Piracy has become easier and faster and much, much more common,” Chairman Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina, said. “The current system is failing and it’s failing badly.”
In contrast to Henley, the hearing also featured testimony from Jonathan Berroya, CEO of the tech lobbying group Internet Association. He argued that the “overwhelming majority” of copyright infringement occurs on foreign tech platforms, and that tech companies and those in the entertainment industry should come together to find a solution.