Sets crosshairs on ISP safe harbors, desires a second look at mandatory filtering

Are the protections ensconced in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) strong enough? Apparently not, says “Congressman Hollywood” Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), who feels that certain provisions need reinforcement (PDF) in light of the changes in technology between today and the DMCA’s inception.

One of the most important provisions worth revisiting, says Berman, are the safe harbor provisions that currently shelter ISPs and user-generated content sites like Youtube or MySpaceTV. While many argue that these protections are one of the DMCA’s greatest strengths – allowing ISPs and companies to host user content unburdened of the expensive task of policing it – Berman seems to think that the same hosts are using safe harbor as a legal shield to protect them from the consequences of what Hollywood feels are lax policies.

Critics are understandably concerned, as a loss of safe harbor protections might cause Youtube et al to be “blasted out of existence,” according to Gizmodo Editor Matt Buchanan.

Berman would like the Department of Justice to get involved as well, creating a new IP enforcement division and enacting a voluntary partnership with ISPs that would allow the DOJ to send notices similar to the infamous DMCA “takedown” notices currently used. This would be a sharp turn for the DOJ, which historically has chosen not to participate in cases of individual piracy even though it had the power to do so.

Finally, Berman wants to revisit the current government stance on content filtering; he feels that technology has advanced sufficiently enough to warrant a second look at whether it is viable to enforce mandatory content filtering “in some situations.”

While Berman’s words are merely indicative of his intentions, it seems that he intends for some of his ideas to show up in a future, as-yet-unnamed piece of legislation.

"People Don't Respect Confidentiality in This Industry" -- Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO Jack Tretton

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