Senator Tillis Is Mad That Twitter Won't Testify About Copyright Infringement; Since When Is Twitter A Piracy Problem?

from the weird-all-around dept

After writing about the MPA/RIAA's ever-shifting targets of who to freak out about regarding copyright infringement, it helps to take each new target with a grain of salt. They were mad about Napster, then LimeWire, then YouTube, then cyberlockers/cloud storage. And now, apparently the target is... random social media sites? There's been plenty of attention recently over the RIAA turning its attention to... background music in Twitch streams. But who the hell thinks that Twitter is some den of piracy? Apparently, the recording industry does.

Senator Thom Tillis, who is leading a new effort to completely overhaul copyright law is apparently angry that Twitter chose not to send someone to a hearing he's holding in mid-December.

The letter that Tillis sent to Twitter in response to this decision is way over the top. Unless subpoenaed, appearing before Congress is very much voluntary. People and companies refuse to appear all the time. And even if there was a subpoena, it seems worth noting that it's Tillis' party that has decided that ignoring Congressional subpoenas is just fine and dandy.

But, really, the bigger issue here is why is Twitter even a target at all? No one thinks about Twitter as a source for copyright infringing materials. And Twitter has always been known to be responsive to DMCA takedowns. They have a whole section in their transparency report about copyright takedown notices. That certainly shows that Twitter is very responsive to DMCA notices. It does highlight how it has refused to comply with some notices, but those are in cases where it's clearly abuse of the DMCA for censorship, such as when a bunch of DMCA notices were sent to try to silence critics of the Ecuadorian government.

In fact, if anything, we've often seen Twitter be too responsive to questionable DMCA takedown notices, like the time it pulled down a Trump campaign video (remember, Tillis is a big Trump supporter) over a highly questionable copyright claim.

And yet, here's Tillis trying to make it sound like Twitter is a den of piracy that ignores copyright takedowns.

But Twitter has been less engaged in working with copyright owners on voluntary measures and technological tools, and now has rebuffed my request to testify. The only reasonable conclusion one can draw from your actions is that Twitter simply does not take copyright piracy seriously.

Or, maybe, the nature of Twitter (mostly short bursts of text) is not at all conducive to some RIAA supported show trial about piracy. But it's really in the detailed questions in which Tillis gives away the game. The RIAA wants to force every website that hosts 3rd party content to have to buy a sitewide license. This is what Article 17 was all about in the EU, and Tillis more or less admits it with this question:

I have heard that Twitter has been slow to respond to copyright infringement on its platform and also refused to negotiate licenses or business agreements with music publishers or record labels. In contrast, other major-social media companies have done the right thing and mitigated infringing activity on their platfoms by entering into negotiated license agreements to allow uses of music. Does Twitter seek licenses for the use of music? If so, in what instances? Has Twitter made efforts to negotiate license agreements with music publishers and record labels to ensure songwriters- and artists are compensated?

No one is going to Twitter as a way to get music. If music appears in video snippets on Twitter it's almost entirely incidental. And Twitter has shown that it's absolutely responsive to DMCA notices (see the Trump campaign ad takedown mentioned above). This is entirely about the RIAA trying to get the US government to force every website to just write them a big check every year.

Despite the tremendous value that music brings to Twitter’s business, your platform continues to host and permit rampant infringement of music files on its platform

What? No. That's literally not happening, and music is not providing any significant value to Twitter's business.

Twitter has not taken meaningful steps to address the scale of the problem.

It clearly has taken steps and is incredibly responsive to DMCA notices (sometimes too responsive).

Instead, your company claims that it already goes above and beyond what the law requires. What steps has Twitter taken to ensure no unlicensed music is made available?

This is such a dumb question. It is literally impossible to "ensure no unlicensed music is made available." Of course some will always be because of the broken nature of today's copyright law, nearly everything anyone does involves some form of copying content without a license. In fact, many unlicensed uses of music are legal because of things like fair use or de minimis use. Demanding "no unlicensed music" is not only impossible, it literally is not required by law.

How many takedown notices has Twitter received each year since it launched in 2006?

This is a really bad question as well. This was the key tactic the labels have used against Google/YouTube, using the number of notices received as a proxy for how bad the sites are. But this is a number the labels have control over since they get to send the notices.

There are more questions, but the whole thing is clearly driven by the RIAA's interests to force Twitter into just writing them a giant check every year. I mean, I guess it worked against YouTube and Facebook (where at least there was some argument to be made that music was a bigger deal), so now they've moved on to other sites like Twitch and Twitter. But forcing every website to sign a license is crazy, not required by law, and acting as if the failure to sign a license is some indictment of how Twitter feels about copyright is complete nonsense.

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Filed Under: congress, copyright, testimony, thom tillis
Companies: twitter


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 3 Dec 2020 @ 10:40am

    'How dare you not step into the trap I laid?!'

    But Twitter has been less engaged in working with copyright owners on voluntary measures and technological tools, and now has rebuffed my request to testify. The only reasonable conclusion one can draw from your actions is that Twitter simply does not take copyright piracy seriously.

    Or just maybe they saw the absolute farce that other companies have had to put up with recently where they'll show up for a hearing only to be grilled and presented with lies, insults and loaded questions and decided not to play along?

    With a response like this I'd say any hopes that he might recognize that copyright is broken and want to fix it have been thoroughly killed and put to rest, as talking points and claims like that do not come from someone who is going to be interested in aiding the public's side of copyright law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    crade (profile), 3 Dec 2020 @ 10:56am

    The only reasonable conclusion is that they simply just don't Senator Thom Tillis seriously

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2020 @ 11:18am

    Hey Mike, when will they be coming after this site to get you to pay the license fees? A licensing law is money for the expense of a tame lawyer making threats.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      sumgai (profile), 3 Dec 2020 @ 12:59pm

      Re:

      A licensing law is money for the expense of a tame lawyer making threats.

      Err, not quite. It's for the lobbyist(s) to donate to (read: buy) the Senator, so he can make these threats. Big difference there.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2020 @ 11:39am

    The RIAA is going after Twitter and other social media sites because they have to make up the revenue from strong-arming restaurants into paying fees for playing music in public. Since most restaurants and bars are closed, they have to find someone else to extort money from. Cocaine is expensive.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2020 @ 11:41am

    Still waiting for home taping to kill music so the world can be rid of this nonsense.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2020 @ 11:43am

    More stupid Republican pet tricks. Sometimes I really wish there was a god so they could bitchslap some sense into these idiots. There should be penalties for such greed and stupidity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bloof (profile), 3 Dec 2020 @ 12:04pm

    'Come back here so I can yell at you some more about things that aren't in any way related to what you do but play well with the screeching lunatics who vote for people like me!'

    'Nah, we're good.'

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2020 @ 12:07pm

    In fact, many unlicensed uses of music are legal because of things like fair use or de minimis use.

    Or when no copyright obtains because of public domain.

    But also, when explicitly licensed by (for instance) CC0. Since the RIAA isn't actually looking up whether you have a license to distribute the music, CC0 use looks identical to unlicensed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    CK, 3 Dec 2020 @ 12:13pm

    Old guy not grasping internet

    I'm 99% sure he meant Twitch, but couldn't grasp the name and Twitter instead came to his mind.

    Though the "problem" on Twitch is totally different anyway.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Bruce C., 3 Dec 2020 @ 1:46pm

      Re: Old guy not grasping internet

      Yeah, I missed this comment before bringing up the same point. Tillis' questions kinda/sorta make sense if directed at Twitch. The whole reason for the DMCApocalypse at Twitch was because they didn't have proper protocols in place.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2020 @ 12:17pm

    LSD dealing still?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Designerfx (profile), 3 Dec 2020 @ 12:23pm

    it's stuff like this

    Things like this have reminded me why I vowed to never spend another penny that can ever go to contributing to RIAA/MPAA wallets ever again. Either I get things third party or I get them from independent musicians/artists/actors who have no association. The only thing the RIAA/MPAA has done to society over the years is a significant number of bad things, ranging from getting people to not share ideas due to copyright, to believing false information from movie magic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    mcinsand, 3 Dec 2020 @ 12:34pm

    Twitter is not taking Tillis seriously!

    By ignoring Tillis' invitation, Twitter obviously does not take stupidity seriously, even though it has become a pandemic, especially in Washington DC.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bobvious, 3 Dec 2020 @ 1:11pm

    This is all because Senator Tillis heard

    Electric Avenue being played on someone's Twitter feed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    fairuse (profile), 3 Dec 2020 @ 1:13pm

    Darnit Twitter!

    Tillis: I'll get that [slippery] rabbit.

    The Internet: We need an age limit for politicians -- 65. And maybe term limits to filter House and Senate? <-- just as impossible as "filter non-licensed music" .

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2020 @ 1:19pm

    Dear Senator:

    Thank you for your kind invitation to testify.

    However, whoever told you that our site depends on music was too stupid to breathe without instructions. As you can easily verify by visiting the website--any nine-year-old can tell you how--this website depends on contributions of short (128-character) text comments from all sorts of people, the large majority of whom are not musicians.

    Once you've done your due-diligence checking, you can put your idiotic communicant on your list of people to never communicate with again. If you should ever consider legislation that was in any way relevant to our website, we'd be happy to provide whatever information we can. But you can clearly see that this issue simply does not apply in any way to us. (How many minutes of video, infringing or otherwise, can you fit into 128 characters of text?)

    Thanks again for the invitation. We wish we could help you, but i suspect unmasking your idiot communicant will in the long run save you more time than any other testimony we could give.

    Sincerely,
    All the folk at twitter.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Bobvious, 3 Dec 2020 @ 1:51pm

      Re: minutes of video you can fit in 128 characters

      Well, back in the "good old days", we only had WinRar which wasn't good enough to compress a song into only 128 000 characters, but NOW!!!!! we have WinRarRarRasputin, which can compress a WHOLE Boney M album into only 128 characters.

      It's Я Є V Ф L Ц T ӏ Ф Ѝ А Я Y, Komrade.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bruce C., 3 Dec 2020 @ 1:43pm

    The most plausible explanation...

    Is that Sen Tillis has confused Twitter with Twitch. His questions actually make sense if they were addressed to Twitch.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 3 Dec 2020 @ 11:15pm

      Re: The most plausible explanation...

      It would also be par for the course on this subject, such as the times where Republicans have demanded Mark Zuckerberg to explain something that happened on Twitter.

      It's a little scary, really - millions of jobs worldwide and trillions of dollars on the line depending on their decisions on these subjects, not to mention all the implications regarding free speech and other fundamental rights, and these guys are paying so little attention to the details they can't even get the identities of the people they're talking to straight.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    GHB (profile), 3 Dec 2020 @ 1:57pm

    If license are needed for platforms, what is the point of 512?

    Section 512 (Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act (OCILLA)) means that platforms are not to be sued when they have zero intentions for piracy by having a DMCA agent and following the takedown notices when pirates upload unlicense content on the site.

    It never stated platforms should have a license to avoid liability.

    I have a feeling what he said that twitter having tons of piracy on their platform is most likely by the RIAA over-relying on the automated system without them actually looking at the flagged posts to see the actual truth, and then use that data on Tillis saying these are copyright infringement.

    The RIAA really have a shitty year of 2020, the Youtube-dl debacle and other “stream-ripping” tools, the war against ISPs, and the dumpster fire on twitch (source 2).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anon E Mouse, 3 Dec 2020 @ 4:22pm

    Side note

    "No one is going to Twitter as a way to get music."

    I do. But that's because some artists that I am a fan of openly post their latest work to Twitter, completely legally.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 3 Dec 2020 @ 5:36pm

      Re: Side note

      I should do that, come to think of it; my stuff is already on bandcamp and the internet archive. Check them out!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 3 Dec 2020 @ 11:17pm

      Re: Side note

      Well, do they actually post it on Twitter, or do they just link to an external site in their posts? One would hope that mere linking is not infringing, but we know these people don't pay that much attention to who is actually infringing, even where it does happen.

      But, yeah, one of the primary reasons I have a Twitter account is to follow filmmakers and musicians I'm interested in supporting, and it's a valuable platform for them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anon E Mouse, 4 Dec 2020 @ 5:00am

        Re: Re: Side note

        Now that you mention it, it's the latter. It's links they post to twitter, not the music itself. My apologies for the confusion there.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 4 Dec 2020 @ 5:53am

          Re: Re: Re: Side note

          No problem, it's always a good thing to make a distinction with. The realistic ramifications of saying "here's this thing here" should always be different to "look over there", even if the maximalists don't agree.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Federico (profile), 4 Dec 2020 @ 1:01am

      Re: Side note

      Nice of them, although Twitter doesn't let users set a public license for uploads. Note that an alternative is to use free software in the fediverse, like Mastodon (which is simple to sync with Twitter e.g. through Moa.party). There are some instances devoted to artists.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2020 @ 5:19pm

    I once tweeted out an entire book on Twitter. The publisher yelled at me for it until they realized people were giving up after about the first three pages and some of them decided to buy the e-book instead.

    Not really, but WTF people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    me, 4 Dec 2020 @ 6:08am

    The RIAA is it is now is a den of parasites

    The Recording Industry in its current form needs to fail evolution and be replaced by something that actually benefits the artists it lies about when it claims to represent them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 4 Dec 2020 @ 6:25am

      Re: The RIAA is it is now is a den of parasites

      The problem is, the RIAA does not represent the artists. It represents the labels, and the representation of a handful of major labels outweighs so many smaller labels, let alone independent artists.

      They claim to represent the artists, but that should be the first lie that anyone dealing with them recognises. History is full of artists the majors screwed over.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2020 @ 7:17am

        Re: Re: The RIAA is it is now is a den of parasites

        They claim to represent the artists, but that should be the first lie that anyone dealing with them recognises.

        That sort of lie dates back to the stationers company and the statute of Anne, where the stationers put forward the idea of copyright as an author's right, knowing full well about all the author could do was sell that right to a [publisher.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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