The first of 2020’s big copyright hearings started with a nod to Chumbawamba. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) had looked up which band topped the charts in 1998, the year Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act — one of the most influential and controversial laws governing the internet. Then, Tillis paused soberly. “I don’t know if we’re talking a lot about Chumbawamba” these days, he said. And the DMCA itself? “Almost every single thing about the internet has changed over the past 22 years, and the law simply hasn’t kept pace.”
By the end of the year, Tillis — who chairs the Senate’s intellectual property subcommittee — plans to draft changes to the DMCA. He and co-chair Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) kicked off the process this week with an introductory hearing, speaking to eight legal experts and former congressional staffers. The hearing helped set the stage to re-fight some long-running battles over the balance between protecting copyrighted content and keeping the internet open — but at a time where internet companies are already facing a large-scale backlash.