March 18, 2022
The Authors Guild welcomes the introduction of the SMART Copyright Act of 2022 by Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Subcommittee.
“We are grateful to Senators Tillis and Leahy for their exceptional leadership in drafting this legislation,” said Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild, the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit advocacy organization for published writers, journalists, and translators. “We appreciate their willingness to hear our concerns and work with the creative sector to find effective solutions to help writers and other creators combat internet piracy.”
The SMART Copyright Act of 2022 empowers the Copyright Office to designate standard technical measures (STMs) through a public triennial rulemaking process and requires covered platforms to adopt or implement the STM to identify, remove or filter out piracy from their services. The STMs would be tailored to the needs of particular industries such as publishing, film and television, and music, and failure to implement them would result in liabilities for non-compliance, including actual and statutory damages rather than loss of the safe harbors.
“The SMART Copyright Act of 2022 has our support as an important step towards encouraging all internet platforms to adopt STMs and to make them available for creators, not just big industry,” said Rasenberger. “It is a simple, targeted, efficient solution that has the potential to dramatically reduce piracy on internet platforms. The Authors Guild is thrilled to see this new push by Senators Tillis and Leahy to close the loopholes in copyright law that allow malicious pirates to thrive and harm hardworking creators.”
The Authors Guild looks forward to working with Senators Tillis, Leahy, and their staff to advance the passage of this critical piece of legislation.
Why the SMART Copyright Act Is Necessary
The safe harbors for internet platforms in the Copyright Act are conditioned on the platforms’ cooperation to remove pirated content. The law has not worked as intended by Congress to encourage that cooperation, however, because the courts resisted enforcing the loss of safe harbors. In doing so, they took the teeth out of the law. As a result, piracy is out of control today, and the only mechanism that creators have to combat piracy is to send continuous takedown notices to the platforms, which is not only costly and time-consuming—for both the creators and platforms—but it is also ineffective because pirates often repost the infringing material. Online piracy harms the entire publishing and other creative ecosystems, leaving creators, who are usually at the bottom of the food chain, with only crumbs. Writers and other creators have no recourse except to watch the income from legitimate sales of their works dwindle while e-book pirates line their coffers.
The best way to curb piracy is for service providers to adopt STMs that automatically limit the amount of piracy on their services. These technologies already exist, and many platforms already use them effectively for certain types of works. The Authors Guild and other organizations representing creators have asked Congress to require all the major user-generated content sites to use such technologies to prevent or curb piracy. While the current law contemplates voluntary multi-industry convenings to create and adopt STMs, there has been no incentive for online providers to do so. As a result, no STMs have been formally recognized in the 23 years since the law was passed.
Read Senator Tillis’s statement
Read Senator Leahy’s statement
For more information about e-book privacy and the need for copyright reform, visit https://www.authorsguild.org/where-we-stand/piracy/