Right now, the U.S. Copyright Office is collecting information on the use of "standard technical measures" to address copyright infringement, as part of a longer effort that, we fear, will lead to filtering mandates.
The Copyright Office is also holding a plenary session on February 22, to hear from the public. It will then engage in a series of “industry-sector specific consultations.” Given how often “industry” is seen as equivalent to Big Tech and Big Content, it is vital that the Copyright Office properly consider all of those who would be affected.
We want to make sure that the Copyright Office hears the real problems with technical approaches to infringement, especially automated filters, so that it understands the dangers of allowing robots to shape online expression. Automated filters are expensive, don’t work very well in many instances, and routinely suppress lawful expression. Facebook routinely removes classical musicians because of its filter. YouTube’s filter takes money from independent creators and gives them to giant corporations. Experts in copyright law talking about what counts as infringement find that video removed and can’t figure out how to respond. Twitch removes a channel owned by its parent company. And on and on.
One sadly ironic result: independent internet creators face even more challenges reaching an audience just as new technologies and platforms should be making it easier. “Big Content” cannot be the sole voice of internet creators, who are also copyright holders with a right to be included in this process. And it’s hard to imagine which “industry sectors” can adequately represent the users who would be affected by any new technical measures, much less the multiple public interests in play. If you agree, you can submit comments to remind the Copyright Office of these facts and emphasize the dangers requiring filters would create.
EFF will be filing comments to be included. But in order to make sure the Copyright Office understands the gravity of what it is considering, everyone who sees the threat of even more sensitive, legally-required copyright filters needs to speak up.
Anyone can send the Copyright Office a comment through this form. The Copyright Office asks for the negative results of widespread use of filters, which are obvious: Filters can’t factor in context, so they routinely remove legal speech. They make it harder for independent creators who want to share their work without the aid of a multi-billion dollar corporation. They are expensive, so any service trying to compete with Facebook and YouTube is at an immediate disadvantage. It also asks if there are, in general, pertinent issues the Copyright Office should consider. It should instead consider that the interests of a few giant corporations should not outweigh the public’s interest in fostering creativity and competition. Having more money does not mean they are actually more important or even more affected by the use of filters.
Comments are due February 8, 2022. They don’t need to be long. Make sure the Copyright Office knows we see what they are doing, and that we know we deserve to be involved.