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US Internet Association gets its copyright demands in quick to President-Elect Trump

By | Published on Wednesday 16 November 2016

Internet Association

We don’t yet know the final line-up of Donald Trump’s incoming American government. Presumably hopefuls like Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie have now been split into two teams and are currently participating in a series of pretend business ventures in a bid to win the President Elect’s favour.

Some unconventional appointments are expected though, meaning that lobbying organisations Stateside could soon find themselves schmoozing up to a whole bunch of people they’ve never even heard of before, who have limited knowledge of government and lobbying processes, and with a boss who is officially anti the lobbying machine. So that will be fun.

The Internet Association, a lobbying group representing the big web firms like Amazon, Google, Facebook, Spotify and Pandora, is trying to get in early by penning an open letter to the incoming president, and needless to say ongoing copyright debates feature prominently in the list of issues it proposes that the new Commander In Chief might want to meddle with.

The pesky safe harbours come top, of course, after the music industry in particular ramped up its efforts in the US earlier this year to call for a reform of the protections provided to tech firms by American copyright law. The music business wants the safe harbours reformed so that services like YouTube no longer benefit from protection against liability for copyright infringement when their users upload copyright material without permission.

But, says the IA in its letter to Trump, “The safe harbours are a system of legal certainty that remains the gold standard worldwide for fostering innovative online ecosystems beneficial to creators and service providers alike. Under the shared responsibilities of the notice and takedown system, both rights holders and digital platforms have flourished as consumers increasingly rely on the internet for access to legal content. Efforts to weaken the safe harbours would create legal uncertainty, force internet companies to police the web, chill innovation and free expression online, and undermine the collaborative framework of the law”.

Later focusing on music in particular, the web group bigs up the compulsory licences and consent decrees that many in the music community want reformed or removed. Meanwhile, on copyright policy, it calls for simpler licensing and better data, something that most in the music industry would agree with, though not necessarily on the Internet Association’s terms. And many in the music community will worry about what exactly is meant by the IA’s call for “fairness in law that encourages, rather than stifles, new and innovative services that lower barriers to entry for artists”.

Finally, the internet trade group calls for reform at the US Copyright Office that sits within the Library Of Congress, and which web firms often reckon too often prioritises the interests of copyright owners over those of copyright users. Of course, that reform is already arguably underway after President Obama’s appointment to the job of Librarian Of Congress, Carla Hayden, sacked Copyright Office boss Maria Pallante; a development many in the music community are already worried about.

It remains to be seen how the web lobby fairs in Washington in the Trump era, given that, for all their differences, both Silicon Valley and Hollywood were generally equally as scathing about the new President during his election campaign. Though the copyright industries face the same uncertainties as the tech lobby as they both wait to see what a Trump government will look like. However, the IA’s letter is rather long, and Trump has a famously short attention span. So if the music industry gets Pharrell to write its demands in a couple of verses of rhyme, it could as yet have the edge.