Senators Leahy and Tillis team up to suggest destroying the internet for Hollywood’s sake
from this-is-not-how-the-internet-should-work department
I guess ten years is long enough for Senator Pat Leahy to think everyone had forgotten about the SOPA/PIPA disaster of which he was a major reason. Senator Leahy is about to leave the Senate and apparently has at least one last gift in store for the Hollywood lobbyists (including his daughter) who are making sure Leahy gets a role in every Batman movie. The latest from Leahy (and Sen. Tom Tillis, who clearly seems intent on reprising Leahy’s role as Hollywood’s favorite senator), is to introduce a bill effectively requiring filters on every website.
The bill, which goes by the Orwellian name of the “Strengthening Measures to Advance Rights Technologies Copyright Act of 2022” (abbreviated as the SMART Copyright Act of 2022) is extraordinarily problematic. But it’s also been long overdue. Last month, the Copyright Office hosted a giant roundtable on this topic — after being ordered to do so by the same Tillis and Leahy tag team. As we pointed out both in our submission to the Copyright Office and later during the roundtable, “technical measures” (i.e. filters) have serious implications from the 1st amendment that require in-depth consideration.
But, rather than do anything To address these concerns (and many more concerns raised by roundtable participants), Leahy and Tillis rushed to this bill, which was obviously ready long before the roundtable even existed. Leahy and Tillis and proponents of this bill like to claim that it merely “clarifies” and improves on DMCA Section 512(i), which mentions “standard technical measures,” but make no mistake, it’s yet another Hollywood attempt. to control an internet they’ve always hated.
Everything about this bill is rubbish. It starts out essentially mimicking the much-maligned DMCA 1201 triennial review process. realized that any kind of automatically copyright infringing DRM circumvention would lead to all sorts of nonsense. But, rather than lay down the law so it didn’t create any nonsense, Congress created this completely ridiculous circus, where every three years people like documentary filmmakers, security researchers, and people who just want to fix their own devices, have to come crawling around the Copyright Office and the Librarian of Congress, begging for a waiver, so they can actually do things that everyone agrees are perfectly legal.
In this new bill, this pattern of nuisance is repeated, but reversed. Basically, every three years, the copyright industry would ask the (very, very welcoming) Copyright Office (currently headed by a former prominent copyright industry lobbyist) to designate certain “technical measures” as blessed from above. “Covered” service providers would then effectively be required to use these “technical measures” or face severe legal damages.
It’s not hard to see where this leads. For some time now, the copyright industry has required that every upload be first screened for infringement, against a database it expects internet companies to develop themselves ( away from the copyright industry developing its own database of copyrighted content, as this could be used to show how often the industry doesn’t actually pay its artists). In the EU they pushed it through what is now known as Article 17 (originally Article 13). We are already seeing how the implementation of these download filters creates a huge mess in the EU, and things are likely to be much worse in the US.
Of course, this bill is sneaky because it doesn’t directly ask for filters, so Leahy and Tillis can shrug their shoulders and say the bill doesn’t say anything about filters at all. Indeed, in the ridiculous “myths versus facts” document they released with the bill, they expose the game.
MYTH: This is a filtering mandate that will chill free speech and hurt users.
MADE: The SMART Copyright Act creates an open process for all stakeholders, including the public, to identify copyright-related technology measures that should be widely available to everyone. Certain measures, such as the International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC) photo metadata standard or a Creative Commons license, can help users know if they can use the content and how they can use it while respecting the rights creators. Other technological measures, including “filtering” technologies, are used to stop large-scale content infringement or make content available for licensing. The bill ensures that any designation of existing measures requires the participation of all stakeholders and an assessment of public interest considerations. This process is also an opportunity for users to provide technological solutions to these concerns. The Copyright Office’s particular expertise in the area of copyright and its exceptions, such as fair dealing, can help ensure a fair balance between combating infringements that undermine the constitutional rights of authors and promoting the online availability of documents.
It’s understood? The bill does not impose filters. It just allows Hollywood’s request filters to be mandated by the Copyright Office (run by one of their top lobbyists), but the public (i.e., you suckers) can send letters to complain about it, which will probably be ignored because Hollywood lobbyists know how to play this game better than you.
Also, seriously, the authors of this bill are particularly nefarious, putting something like Creative Commons licenses as an example before filters. Does anyone from Creative Commons require it? Damn no. They didn’t weigh in at the roundtable, which you’d think they would if it was that important.
Don’t get me wrong, this bill is a way of trying to force the internet to use filters. ‘Cause that’s what the copyright industries have always wanted, and they think it’s the sneaky way to get their wish in the United States. It doesn’t matter that Each Research efforts to examine the impact of these things show that the filters massively block content and lead to much less online speech. Never mind that filters can’t determine “fair use”. Never mind that the filters are expensive and would only be affordable by the biggest internet companies.
This is a garbage bill designed, once again, to make the internet the Hollywood vision of the internet: a place to promote and charge people for their content, rather than what it actually is. , an open communication platform. When your communications are “filtered”, it is no longer a communications platform. It’s just another form of television, exactly what Hollywood wants.
Guess we’ll all be spending our time watching Pat Leahy’s cameos in the latest Batman movie, because what else are we going to have to do?
Filed Under: copyright, copyright office, filters, mandatory filters, patrick leahy, technical measures, thom tillis, triennial review