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.