Last week was the deadline for comments on the draft of the so-called “Digital Copyright Act,” a proposal which would fundamentally change how creativity functions online. We asked for creators to add their voices to the many groups opposing this draft, and you did it. Ultimately, over 900 of you signed a letter expressing your concern.
The “Digital Copyright Act” was the result of a year of hearings in the U.S. Senate’s Subcommittee on Intellectual Property. Many of the hearings dismissed or marginalized the voices of civil society, Internet users, and Internet creators. Often, it was assumed that the majority of copyrighted work worth protecting is the content made by major media conglomerates or controlled by traditional gatekeepers. We know better.
We know there is a whole new generation of creators whose work is shared online. Some of that work makes fair use of other copyrighted material. Some work is entirely original or based on a work in the public domain. All of it can run afoul of ranking and promotion algorithms, terms of service, and takedowns. The “Digital Copyright Act” would put all of that creativity at risk, entrenching the power of major studios, big tech companies, and major labels.
Along with your signatures and letter, EFF submitted our own comments on the DCA. We urged Congress to set aside the proposal entirely, as many of the policies it contained would cause deep and lasting damage to online speech, creativity, and innovation. We do not only want this particular draft to be put in the bin where it belongs, we want to be clear that even watered-down versions of the policies it contains would further tip the balance away from individuals or small creators and towards large, well-resourced corporations.
One of our concerns remains a call from many a large corporate rightsholder for Internet services to take down more speech, prevent more from being uploaded, and monitor everything on their services for copyrighted material. The “Digital Copyright Act” proposal does just that, in many places and in many ways. Any one of those provisions would result in a requirement for services to use filters or copyright bots.
Filters alone do not work. They simply cannot do the necessary contextual analysis to determine if something is copyright infringement or not. But many of them are used this way, resulting in legal speech being blocked or demonetized. As bad as the current filter use is, it would be much worse if it became legally mandated. Imagine YouTube’s Content ID being the best case scenario for uploading video to the Internet.
So we want to thank you for speaking up and letting Congress know this issue is not simply academic. And letting them know this is not simply Big Tech versus Big Content. For our part, EFF will continue keeping an eye out and helping you be heard.