Copyright filters are having a bit of a moment in Washington D.C. The Copyright Office is moving ahead with a process to determine what, if anything, constitutes a standard technical measure (STM) that platforms would have to accommodate. And, if that proves too onerous, Congress has Big Content’s back with the Strengthening Measures to Advance Rights Technologies Copyright Act.

This filter mandate bill would task the Copyright Office with designating technical measures (DTMs instead of STMs) that internet services must use to address copyright infringement. Both the Copyright Office proceeding and this bill have the potential to result in the same thing: more copyright filters.

For those who make and share things online, be it through scripted and edited videos or livestreams, filters have routinely been a huge problem. Right now, the only silver lining has been that American law doesn’t require any service to have a filter. YouTube, Facebook, and Twitch use these tools voluntarily, to terrible effect, but they are not doing so under any legal requirement. That means that at least sometimes when they mess up, they can take whatever measures necessary to fix the problem.

And they mess up a lot. Automated systems cannot tell the difference between lawful expression and infringement. YouTube’s system flagged static as copyrighted material five separate times. Facebook can’t tell the difference between different classical musicians playing public domain pieces. And Twitch has completely failed its users in its implementation of anything resembling copyright rules.

Both the Copyright Office proceeding and the rules imagined by the filter mandate bill could result in a series of new, required automated systems.

If a company’s risk is only lowered by having a filter, then the company will want a filter that is oversensitive; the danger of a copyright suit brought by a billion-dollar company looms much larger in the risk equation than ruining the livelihood of independent creators.

That’s why we need to make sure that Congress hears from the many independent creators who don’t want filters, as opposed to the few multi-billion-dollar corporations that want them.

Join us and the Organization for Transformative Works this Friday for a Copyright for Creators Town Hall. We’ll update everyone on what’s going on in D.C. and answer your questions.

EFF At Home: Copyright for Creators Town Hall on Filter Mandates
Friday, April 8, 2022 at 11:30 AM Pacific Time
Streaming Discussion with Q&A

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