After decades of increasingly draconian statutes and judicial decisions, our copyright system has veered far away from its original purpose. To help get copyright back on track, EFF is joining forces with a variety of groups—including libraries, industry associations, and public interest advocates—to launch a new coalition focused on promoting smart, balanced copyright policy: Re:create.
Restoring a sense of balance, fairness, and rationality to the copyright system has never been more urgent. Copyright is supposed to promote creativity, but too often we’ve seen it used to shut down innovation, new creative expression, and even everyday activities like tinkering with your car. When a farmer needs to ask the Librarian of Congress for permission to fix her tractor, it’s not just the tractor that’s broken.
Re:create members have diverse views on some copyright issues, but we share a commitment to building a copyright system that works and, above all, matches its constitutional purpose.
For EFF, those purposes are not served by unreasonable copyright terms; excessive and unpredictable penalties; laws that punish people for hacking the DRM on their devices in order to repair them, make them work better and fix security flaws—or even talk about it in public; lawsuits that try to stifle new and useful products that enable fair uses; government seizures of blogs that mistakenly include a few infringing links; or proposals to force intermediaries to police (and therefore monitor) user-generated content. What we need instead are tailored incentives for creativity, matched by sensible limits and thoughtful enforcement policies that have been developed through a transparent and democratic process, based on real evidence of costs and benefits.
What is more, those Internet users—many of whom are also creators—must be part of the process. Three years ago, after the Internet Blackout called an abrupt halt to the Stop Online Piracy Act, copyright maximalists did their level best to characterize the millions of Internet users who took part as misled and misinformed, more concerned about free stuff than a free Internet.
We know what really happened. We know that the Blackout reflected the unwavering opposition of a broad coalition of public interest groups, technologists, academics, technology companies (big and small), archivists, authors, artists, musicians, bloggers, and just plain concerned citizens, all of whom correctly saw a grave danger to the future of the Internet.
Fast forward to the present, and it is clear that big content owners learned a lesson from that campaign—but it was the wrong one. For example, instead of recognizing that an online blacklist was a fundamentally unworkable idea, they decided that it could only be pushed in secrecy. Indeed, we have seen repeated efforts to obtain SOPA-like enforcement mechanisms in different forums—including state courts, state legislatures, the International Trade Commission, and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.
These mechanisms are both dangerous and ineffective. By contrast, Re:create will work for copyright policies that make sense for creators, the public, and the Internet. We’re glad to be a part of it.