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Service providers continuously found violating the DMCA

In 1998, Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, in part, to protect service providers from copyright infringers.

The statute was notable for creating what is known as a "notice and takedown" procedure.

But the increase in online piracy suggests that maybe the time is right to revisit the law.

Under the "notice and takedown" provision, online service providers that store documents, videos, images, music and other materials online are protected from legal action as long as they take down illegal material after they receive a notice from copyright holders that the material was posted without their permission.

The reason? Congress didn't want service providers to face legal action every time one of their users posted video, documents or music online without the proper permission. Such providers would simply struggle to stay in business. And, some argued, that such a punitive system could also hamper the free exchange of ideas and debate in the online world.

However, much has changed in the nearly two decades since the Digital Millennium Copyright Act took effect.

Is the law working?

Consider a study done in 2015 by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. The study found that 94 percent of all "take down" notices sent by the federation targeted recordings that had been uploaded repeatedly by users even after the online service providers hosting them had already been notified that the content was posted illegally.

This is evidence that the generous provisions in the Act are being taken advantage of and not really hindering the reproduction of copyrighted material like movies, songs and images.

In 2014, according to a story by technology Web site ars technica, Google handled 345 million copyright takedowns-a 75 percent increase from the year before, according to the site.

Further, commentary by the Free State Foundation published on The Hill Web site, user-upload services such as YouTube, SoundCloud and Vimeo are filled with infringing content. In 2012 alone, the music-recording industry has filed takedown notices regarding more than 17 million instances of copyright infringements.

Why are providers seemingly ignoring the law?

The problem might be that online service providers make a significant amount of money from illegal material. Illegally uploaded movies and music, for instance, often draws plenty of users to sites. Large amounts of traffic can boost the ad revenues that online sites so often rely on to make a profit.

Good news

The good news for copyright holders is that the U.S. Copyright Office is now reviewing the "notice and takedown" system, and is holding a series of public meetings across the country to address the issue.

The hope is that changes can be made to the system that protects both the online exchange of ideas and speech and copyright holders simultaneously.

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