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Digital Music Copyright Law: What’s New for 2012

Francois Arbour
By Francois Arbour
By Francois Arbour

2011 was a busy year in the world of digital music copyright law

The main topic of conversation was the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The tenets of the bill have already set off a fury of controversy, even before its congressional due date in 2012.

In a nutshell, SOPA would put more power in the hands of individual copyright holders, allowing them to, in effect, shut down any website found to contain intellectual property. On the surface, it seems like this would finally choke off the torrent of copyrighted material pouring into and out of file sharing sites.

But big internet players such as Microsoft, Apple, Google and Yahoo, and heavyweight social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, are raising objections. Theoretically, SOPA could be used against law-abiding websites–an entire domain name could even be blacklisted based on the content of a few user posts or emails. The domino effect could have unforeseen legal and financial consequences.

Sites could be forced to monitor users in a way that runs afoul of privacy rights. Not to mention the financial cost for the technology required to assure compliance. Tumblr zeroed in on industry concerns in one sentence: “As written, [Congress] would betray more than a decade of U.S. policy and advocacy of Internet freedom by establishing a censorship system using the same domain blacklisting technologies pioneered by China and Iran.”

SOPA could be a major step backward from a 2011 Supreme Court decision involving the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). In the case of Universal Music Group (UMG) vs. the video sharing site Veoh, the court upheld DMCA’s “safe harbor” provision, in which file sharing sites cannot be held liable for infringing content posted by users as long as reasonable effort is made to remove the offending material.

No matter which side of the digital opinion poll you lean toward, 2012 should be a fulfillment of the ancient Chinese proverb, “May you live in interesting times.” Contact us today to learn how to lawfully download and use our royalty-free music without violating music copyright laws.