What is the Censorship Machine?
Directly following Trump’s victory, recording industry associations wrote to him asking that he demand tech companies create new ways to restrict access online and make sure they get the compensation they feel they deserve.4 Then the Copyright Alliance wrote to him aggressively pushing protectionist measures that would secure existing monopolies and stop new business emerging.
The system they are proposing is officially called “Notice and Staydown”.5 But we know what it really is: a censorship machine.
It would force our favorite websites to create or buy expensive new technologies to monitor and filter the content we create. It would put a huge technical burden on new websites and businesses to find ways to fulfill these obligations — putting a chill on innovation.6
The Censorship Machine means every website that allows users to upload content must have automated programs which detect and flag copyrighted content as it is uploaded. Its algorithm would block the person from uploading the content altogether, rather than taking it down after it has been fairly assessed.
How will this affect us?
Monitoring billions of posts per day can only be done with automated systems that unfairly censor legal speech and expression.
These programs detect and block content, regardless of whether or not it is legitimate or legal. These bots won’t be able to recognize legal exceptions for parody, public interest, and fair use. It will stop you sharing fan fiction, memes, video remixes, gifs, critiques, online reviews, home videos, and all sorts of brilliant, creative things. Even posting a comment on a blog or news story could cause you to run afoul of the censorship machine.
The Censorship Machine will force your favorite websites to monitor you, and give publishing giants the power to block your online expression.
Internet companies would also have new incentives to block or delete any material you upload if they fear a legal risk.
What else is being proposed?
The copyright Censorship Machine is bad enough, but that's not all! This could be the start of an avalanche of new demands that will dramatically restrict Americans' ability to express themselves online. For example, the newspaper lobby have written to Trump asking for the same link tax powers we saw in Europe.7 And the Copyright Alliance are attacking those who are working to defend free expression online, saying “ Efforts to diminish creators’ rights in the name of “free speech” should be viewed as destructive and dangerous.”
Instead of a Censorship Machine, we need positive rules that respect creators, prioritize free expression, and are shaped democratically.
In these turbulent times we simply cannot afford to have powerful mass censorship tools in the hands of lobbyists and government officials.