It should be no surprise that I’m an unabashed supporter of free speech. Usually essays that start that way are then followed with a “but…” and that “but…” undermines everything in that opening sentence. This is not such an essay. However, I am going to talk about some interesting challenges that have been facing our concepts of free speech over the past few years — often in regards to how free speech and the internet interact. Back in 2015, at our Copia Summit we had a panel that tried to lay out some of these challenges, which acknowledged that our traditional concepts of free speech don’t fully work in the internet age.
Clearing The Path To Improved Collaboration
A Data Innovation Case Study
Innovation vs. Anti-Piracy Enforcement
With the General Counsels of Twitter, LinkedIn, Mozilla and more.
With Michelle Paulson, Sarah Jeong and Dave Willner
Last month, we noted that a ton of tech companies — including us at the Copia Institute — had signed on to amicus brief opposing the Trump Executive Order on immigration. As you know, the administration came out with a new executive order a few weeks later, trying to get around the multiple courts that had blocked the original order. The new order is just a cosmetic rewriting of the original one with a few small changes that the administration hopes will survive judicial scrutiny. A number of challenges have already been filed to the new order, and in one of them, brought by the state of Hawaii, a bunch of tech companies (again, including the Copia Institute) have now filed an amicus brief opposing the order. In particular, this brief focuses on the harms to the tech industry, including actual examples of harms created by this exec order:
The Copyright Office’s study concerning Section 512 of the DMCA (the notice-and-takedown/safe harbors part of the law) had its second comment period end this week — which is why you’re seeing stories about how the RIAA is suddenly talking about piracy filters and notice-and-staydown. The Copia Institute has filed its own comments, pointing out the already problematic First Amendment issues with the way the current notice-and-takedown system works. Remember, there’s a very high standard set by the Supreme Court before you can take down expressive content. But the notice-and-takedown system ignores all of that:
Late Sunday night, virtually the entire technology industry (plus some companies from other industries as well) signed onto an amicus brief for the Ninth Circuit appeals court, calling Donald Trump’s executive order banning travelers and refugees from certain countries illegal and unconstitutional.
We were thrilled to be a part of the process that helped bring together nearly every major technology company (all put together somewhat frantically on Super Bowl Sunday) to stand up for what we believe is right and against what we find to be an insult to basic humanity and the Constitution.
Several years ago, we hosted a series of really fun events called the Techdirt Greenhouse, which involved getting a lot of smart people together and actively brainstorming on a variety of topics. We’ve been wanting to bring back the Greenhouse events for a while now, and we’re finally going to do so with a new series of evening Greenhouse Salons hosted by the Copia Institute. Today we’re announcing the very first of these new Greenhouse Salons, The Battle For Copyright Reform. As you know, there are ongoing efforts to reform copyright around the globe, with a proposal leaked for the EU and one expected shortly in the US.
We’re more than a bit concerned about the direction copyright reform may be moving in, especially after the leaked European draft, and thus this Greenhouse Salon will be a gathering to not just discuss issues related to copyright reform, but to actively strategize on how best to both respond to the efforts that are currently underway, and take a much more long-term view on how to really reform copyright in a much more useful way — one that isn’t anti-public and anti-innovation, but which recognizes that there are ways to build policies that align the interests of content creators, the public and innovators together. The event, in partnership with Automattic (creators of WordPress) and sponsored by Pinterest, will be held on September 12th at 6pm in San Francisco. It’s what we consider a working event, where everyone will be expected to participate in discussion groups. The event is invite only (and we’ve already invited a bunch of great people to take part), but we’re now opening it up for others to request an invite as well. We’ll do our best to accommodate requests for invites, while maintaining our goal of keeping the overall attendance at a manageable number to ensure that the group can actually function and accomplish things, and to involve people who have something productive to contribute to the overall discussion.
If you’re interested, please fill out the form to request an invite. We’ll be having more Greenhouse Salons on other topics (and probably in other locations) in future months, so stay tuned…
Late last year, we told you about a worrisome effort by the European Commission to saddle the internet with unnecessary regulations. They had released an online “consultation” which was ostensibly part of the effort to create a “Digital Single Market” (a good idea in the world of a borderless internet), but which appears to have been hijacked by some bureaucrats who saw it as an opportunity to attack big, successful internet companies and saddle them with extra regulations. It’s pretty clear from the statements and the questions that the Commission is very much focused on somehow attacking Google and Facebook (and we won’t even get into the fact that the people who are looking to regulate the internet couldn’t even program a working online survey form properly). However, as we noted, Google and Facebook are big enough that they can handle the hurdles the EU seems intent on putting on them: it’s the startups and smaller tech firms that cannot. The end result, then, would actually be to entrench the more dominant players.
We helped created a “survival guide” for those who wished to fill out the (long, arduous) survey, and many of you did. We’ve now spearheaded a followup effort, which we’ve put up on the Don’t Wreck The Net site. It’s a letter to the EU Commission, signed by a number of internet companies and investors who care deeply about keeping the internet open and competitive. You can see the letter on that site, and it has already been signed by investors such as Union Square Ventures and Homebrew and a bunch of great internet companies, including Reddit, Medium, DuckDuckGo, Patreon, Automattic (WordPress), Yelp, CloudFlare, Shapeways and more.
Today, we’re launching a new initiative called Don’t Wreck The Net. The European Commission is holding a public consultation on new regulations for the internet, and the only way to send comments is through a painfully long and oblique online survey. Unfortunately, thanks to those five pages of small print and confusing questions, most people don’t seem to have realized just how big a deal this consultation is — and it only runs until December 30th.
Content Creator of the Month is a new project from Copia. Each month, we’ll profile a new content creator who is doing interesting and compelling things, often using the internet in innovative and powerful ways.
This month, the focus is on Ross Pruden, who we’ve written about a few times before, for his Kickstarter project Dimeword, where he planned to write 100 stories of 100 words each and put them all in the public domain. Right as the campaign was succeeding, Pruden wrote a piece for Techdirt looking at what factors made the campaign successful, and it’s been interesting to follow the project since then.
Last month over at Techdirt, we noted that the new IP Enforcement Coordinator, Danny Marti, is now accepting comments for the administration’s next “Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement” plan. While I know it’s easy to roll your eyes at participating in these things, in years past we sent in comments and were pleasantly surprised to see the resulting plan actually take many of those comments into account, and turn out to be something that was mostly reasonable. We do have some concerns about Marti, given that the comments he’s made to date seem to reflect a very… one-sided view of copyright enforcement. However, we’re hopeful that he’s open to evidence and reason. Below are the comments that we’re submitting, much of which was based on the Carrot & Stick research report we released last week. If you’d like to submit your own comments, all the details are here. The deadline is today, October 16th.
Ever since the internet became a place where copyright infringement was rampant, we’ve seen the same basic playbook from the legacy entertainment industry: pass stricter anti-piracy laws. In the 30 years predating the big fight over SOPA in 2011-2012, the US had passed 15 separate anti-piracy laws. Countries around the globe (often under pressure from the US) have passed increasingly more draconian copyright laws designed to “stop piracy.” And when they can’t pass laws directly, they resort to international trade agreements, like the TPP, whereby trade negotiators (who are directly influenced by the legacy entertainment industry) negotiate deals in back rooms that require stricter anti-piracy laws. And none of it works. Sure, when a new law first goes into effect there may be an initial, short-term decrease in piracy rates, but it doesn’t last for more than a few months, as people quickly go back to finding ways to access the content they want.
So how about a different approach? One that actually does work. One that has been shown, time and time again, to actually reduce piracy rates? Enabling more innovation and allowing more services to legally deliver what consumers want.