May 11, 2010

Strangling the Net: Stripping DMCA Protections from YouTube

Greetings. An amicus curiae brief was filed a few days ago by the Washington Legal Foundation in the ongoing Viacom vs. YouTube/Google lawsuit.

Even by the normal standards of our adversarial legal system, this brief is startling not only in the depth of its misleading and just plain inaccurate arguments, but also in the implications that its "logic" would have for the Internet at large.

Despite Google's implementation of a comprehensive "video fingerprinting" system to aid in the identification of copyrighted materials that rights holders wish to remove from the YouTube environment, the brief's arguments that services such as YouTube are not deserving of DMCA protections are clearly disingenuous.

This is especially true when viewed in light of the abusive behavior that has been revealed on the part of Viacom in their attempt to "game" YouTube for their own purposes, even while Viacom was simultaneously complaining about YouTube operations -- the textbook definition of hypocrisy.

It's crucial to understand that such arguments are part of an increasingly shrill campaign being promulgated by powerful interests who desperately wish to "reimagine" the Internet as primarily an entertainment industry conduit, where ISPs and Web sites -- even search engines -- would be forced into the role of Content Cops, potentially required to "approve" every posting by every user, at the risk of massive financial liabilities.

The ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) is largely oriented toward creating this sort of requirement at the international level, as are many of the dangerous calls to eliminate all forms of anonymous Internet usage.

The negative implications of such a regime -- which would turn the entire concepts of free speech and the existing DMCA "safe harbor" on their heads, extend vastly beyond the scope of YouTube.

As I've noted before, I have many friends in the music and film industries here in L.A., and I certainly appreciate their intellecutal property concerns.

But while it's reasonable for intellectual property to be protected in appropriately measured ways, it is unacceptable to turn the Internet into a surveillance monster where every Web site is required to proactively and continually monitor and censor the postings of every user -- largely to meet the goals of a few massive entertainment industry conglomerates.

Basic principles of fair use, free speech, privacy, and civil liberties more broadly, require that we resist attempts to remake the Internet into a permission-based liability leviathan, strangling users in a suffocating maze of restrictions that benefit the few while penalizing, intimidating, and muzzling the many.


Posted by Lauren at May 11, 2010 12:31 PM | Permalink
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