Artists. Lives in the Balance.

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As an evolved society we cannot continue to allow great art to be the sacrificial lamb for empire building on the internet.

Last New Year's Eve, the U.S. Copyright Office posted a "Notice of Inquiry" on their website asking for comments from the public on Section 512 of title 17. For those who don't know, Section 512 is directly tied to the epidemic of copyright infringement on the internet and our failure to provide copyright holders with legitimate protection for their work. April 1st was the last day to submit comments.

"The Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA") is not working as Congress intended. Courts have interpreted the red flag knowledge standard to require an exceedingly high level of specific knowledge before service providers risk losing their Section 512 safe harbors.......

As a result, instead of promoting a system where service providers and copyright owners work together to find and remove infringing materials, Section 512 allows services that provide access to enormous amounts of infringing creative works to avoid liability so long as they properly act on individual takedown notices sent by copyright owners........

This one-sided case law has disrupted the careful balance of responsibilities that Congress sought to create when it enacted the DMCA and has made it near-impossible for copyright owners to efficiently prevent large-scale piracy of their works." George Mason University School of Law. Read entire submission.

Section 512 is where the battle line is being drawn between online businesses that use a loophole in the law to reap enormous profits from using copyrighted material without permission and the copyright holders who have seen their careers crater and their earnings evaporate. It is nothing less than a life and death struggle for the future of art in America. A battle whose outcome is yet undecided.

Not surprisingly, after eighteen years of failed legislation, Section 512 has been on the books since 1998, there is now a sense of entitlement for both the business who have built their fortunes on free content and users who have benefitted from free music, films and books. It has gone on for so long, the thought of someone actually paying feels like a rip-off. After all, for an entire generation and many working in the tech industry, free is all they've come to know.

The stakes couldn't be higher. It's high noon. So much in this country is now decided by the power and wealth of Silicon Valley that even with a law that is so clearly broken, the outcome is unclear.

As we've witnessed in the past with legislation that has attempted to limit online piracy, on the day before the Copyright Office's cut off date for submissions a rogue organization, Fight for the Future, staged a twenty-four cyber attack in an attempt to crash the Copyright Office's servers and discredit the study.

"FFTF employed a sophisticated campaign of technology and misinformation to electronically generate tens of thousands of identical canned comments to the CO website.   Further instead of having users visit the consultation comment page for comments as the Copyright Office requires, FFTF used a web form hosted by Fight For The Future." The Trichordist. Read Entire Post.

There's really no other way to describe these kind of actions than coordinated cyber bullying campaigns built on distorted information to incite an angry online mob. A mob that mobilizes and then disappears quickly back into the shadows.

It doesn't take a legal expert to see the glaring flaws in Section 512, but that is no guarantee of success for those who have been forced to sacrificed so much for others' success on the internet.