Justin.tv Compared To Napster At Congressional Hearing

Justin.tv CEO Michael Seibel was grilled by members of the House Judiciary Committee this morning about what his site was doing to combat piracy.

Seibel told Congress that the site complies with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by taking down infringing material upon request. Additionally, Seibel says, the site offers a tool for copyright owners to remove their content and helped develop a digital fingerprinting system. Justin.tv allows users to post and view live streaming video.

But some lawmakers weren't satisfied. Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) lamented the fact that Justin.tv doesn't always remove infringing content until a copyright owner sends a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice.

"It sounds to me that Justin.tv has content on its site that is not permissible," Rooney said at the hearing about piracy of live sporting events on sites that enable real-time streaming, like Justin.tv. Rooney then complained to Seibel: "You're not doing anything about it until one of these guys" -- referring to the content owners at the hearing -- "comes and says, 'You need to take it down.' "

Of course, that's exactly the procedure that the DMCA sets out for handling copyright infringement claims. If Rooney disagrees with the process, it would make a lot more sense for him to take up that matter with his colleagues, not Justin.tv.

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) demanded to know how Justin.tv distinguished itself from Napster, long the poster child for copyright infringement.

Seibert responded that Justin.tv wasn't designed to distribute unauthorized content and that the company worked with rightsholders. "Napster avoided working with copyright owners," Seibert said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) expressed concern about bogus takedown notices. Citing a report by Google that 57% of takedown notices received in the U.S. were by businesses targeting competitors, and 37% weren't valid copyright claims, he wanted to know Justin.tv made sure that content owners weren't trampling on people's fair use rights. "Are you able to judge quickly enough that the material you are taking down is indeed copyrighted material," he asked.

Again, that problem is better addressed by Congress than by the companies who have to live by the rules established by the DMCA. The current law gives sites like Justin.tv no incentive to make an independent assessment about the validity of a DMCA takedown claim. On the contrary, the DMCA only immunizes sites from liability when they delete material upon request, and leaves them open to up to $150,000 damages per infringement when they decline to honor a takedown notice.

Tags: piracy
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4 comments about "Justin.tv Compared To Napster At Congressional Hearing".
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  1. Jonathan Mirow from BroadbandVideo, Inc., December 16, 2009 at 7:13 p.m.

    This is a tough question - but I think comparing Justin.TV to Napster shows a deep misunderstanding about what each site does (or did). On a related note - check out www.Qik.com which allows you to stream live from your cell phone. This turns everyone with a mobil device into a potential concert and event pirate - who is liable here - the person who streams a copywritten event or the company that provides the technology and the bandwidth? Think I'll go read a newspaper. Oh, wait...

  2. Dean Collins from Cognation Inc, December 16, 2009 at 7:24 p.m.

    It's for reasons like this that I'm glad we never streamed video against the http://www.LiveBaseballChat.com fan site even though every second investor was asking us "what about video".

  3. Corey Kronengold from Smart AdServer, December 16, 2009 at 8:01 p.m.

    What an embarrassment. Another case of the regulators not knowing what they are regulating. Just another series of tubes........

  4. Rich Reader from WOMbuzz, December 16, 2009 at 11:50 p.m.

    Mr. Rooney needs to learn what the DMCA sets forth and stop intimidating law-abiding citizens into acting in the interests of his lobby money. He is an embarassment to his office and his country who should not be left to ride rough shod over decent people.