Copyfail #3: Google and Facebook becoming the Internet police force
This article is the third in the series presenting Copyfails.
The EU is reforming its copyright rules. We want to introduce to you the main failures of the current copyright system, with suggestions on how to fix them. You can find all the Copyfails here.
How has it failed?
The entire EU copyright system is broken. Rather than trying to fix this broken system, policy makers often believe that handing over the responsibility for enforcing the broken rules to companies, privatised policing of the internet, will solve the problems.
Why is this important?
Privatised law enforcement undermines democracy and creates serious risks for fundamental rights, particularly for freedom of expression. Despite this, in current copyright debates, the focus is far too often on how private companies should police the internet, not on the need of a copyright reform.
Internet companies will always take the easiest option. If they fear laws, punishment or bad publicity, it’s always easier and safer for them to delete legal content along with possibly unauthorised or illegal content, just in case. Calls from the European Commission and the European Parliament for private companies to judge which online content should or should not be taken offline leads to censorship, abuses and over-enforcement. For example, the use of copyright laws to take down contents that politicians consider “undesired” threatens directly freedom of expression. It also leads to the removal of quotation and fair use rights, as a result of automatic takedown mechanisms, such as Google’s “contentID”. Indirectly, through “chilling effects”, it also leads to individuals self-censoring their online content in order to avoid possible punishments.
- ContentID being used to delete a video of a professor calling for more copyright in relation to sport broadcasts.
- Sony Music takes down a lecture about music copyright by Harvard Law Professor.
- University professor and copyright reform advocate Larry Lessing sees his presentation taken down for alleged copyright infringement and then sees it happen a second time.
How to fix it?
EDRi booklet: Human rights and privatised law enforcement (25.02.2014)
Copyright Law as a Tool for State Censorship of the Internet (03.12.2014)