CC still opposes mandatory filtering and so should you

Yuanxiao Xu

As part of Creative Commons’ key strategic goal ofBetter Sharing, we have taken a firm stance against mandatory content filtering on the internet. In new proposed legislation, the U.S. Congress is now raising mandatory content filtering again as a tool toeliminateinfringement of copyrighted works. For those who are new to the discussion, mandatory filteringwould require that all information providers enable software that prevents the distribution of materials claimed by rightsholders. If you’ve ever uploaded videos to YouTube, you’ve seen content filters at work: videos are scanned for copyrighted audio like popular music before they are published, and sometimes videos are blocked even when they are legal to share. Policy that forces every digital publisher, platform, and service provider to adopt similar filters would make this broken model universal. CChas long statedthat the effects of mandatory filtering are devastating to free speech, as well as the sharing of culture and knowledge. CC has alsospoken out against filtering mandatesandopposed their introduction在欧盟。

Earlier this year,we explained why we are strongly opposedto the proposed “Strengthening Measures to Advance Rights Technologies (SMART) Copyright Act of 2022”. A few weeks ago, we submitted aCommentto the U.S. Copyright Office in response to itsNotice of Inquiry; in it, wecontinue to advocate that no internet services should be forced to adoptStandard Technical Measures (STMs), or any othermandatory filtering systems, imposed by the government.

Specifically, we stated in our Comment that we did not believe the law mandated STMs, and that the law must continue not to require them. While service providers should be free to choose to use filtering as a tool to aid in compliance for a first-level review, filters should never be the final say in what materials are shared with the public.

In June, Creative Commons was invited to present its position on mandatory filtering ata workshop organized by the Internet Archive题为“图书馆与数字信息生态系统:迈向更好的互联网的平权政策议程”。” (The workshop is a continuation ofthe Better Internet initiative.)

Our lightning talk presentation centered on the damaging effects of mandatory copyright filtering for library communities; mainly, that such policy was at odds with providing the public with access to information. We reiterated thatmandatory filtering, by design, does not respect limitations and exceptionsto authors’ exclusive rights, but respects only the interests of the largest rightsholders. These simplistic technical tools unfortunately do not account for the context of uses such as education, research, preservation, or critical commentary; they see only matches for content, and many cannot even do that well. Even the most sophisticated systems available today give too many false positives to legally authorized material uploaded by users. (Examples include public domain recordings of classical music mistakenly flagged as major label recordings of those pieces, andan hour long loop of a cat purring being misidentified as a song.)

The mission of libraries isto connect people with the information they need, not to enforce the barriers that keep people away from it; the introduction of mandatory copyright filters stifles this mission.Creative Commons believes that no internet services, including libraries, should be forced to adopt filtering systems, nor bear the cost of implementing any mandatory filtering systems.

Fundamentally, Creative Commons does not believe that the effort to completely eliminate copyright infringements is worth the harm such schemes would cause. Our mission for Better Sharingrespects both authors’ rights and the rights of the publicwho teach, learn, criticize, and reference, and we must oppose any mandatory filtering scheme that does not respect these rights.