Sunday, December 28, 2014

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) uses copyright law as censorship canard again

It's easy to predict that we will see musicians and writers who want their copyrighted work protected being snookered into posting petitions on Facebook that actually attack their own rights.

Dec 4, 2014 by Ellen Seidler

Censorship is a dirty word, laden with negative connotations and so it’s not surprising to see the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) dust if off (again) for use in its ongoing PR efforts to undermine rights of creators who use legal means to protect their works from online theft. The “censoring speech online” hyperbole was an effective battle cry during the SOPA debate, so why not use the same rhetoric to gin up opposition to artists’ rights and copyright law?

This time EFF’s sites are set on the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the law (passed in 1998) that set up a system whereby copyright holders could facilitate the removal of their pirated content from websites that publish it without authorization.


Per usual, her post is written as though online piracy is a benign, practically non-existent problem. In fact, not once does she address the ways in which copyright infringement damages filmmakers, authors, musicians, photographers and other creators. Don’t people working in these fields deserve protection too? Apparently not, at least as far as the EFF is concerned.

In EFF’s world, copyright itself is a a form of censorship


From a creator’s perspective the DMCA is clumsy and ultimately weighted against rights holders. Go ahead and upload a movie to YouTube. Yeah, there’s fine print under “suggestions” that politely asks, “Please be sure not to violate others’ copyright or privacy rights,” but users don’t actually have to submit any proof of ownership. It’s the job of rights holders to search for, and submit a DMCA notice to request the removal of their content day after day after day.

If an uploader responds with a counter-notice, it’s the rights holder who has to go to court to enforce a takedown. Most indie creators don’t have the money to initiate a lawsuit so in many cases it’s the uploader that–in this game–gets the last word as the content ends up back online. The default mode for YouTube and the rest of the web is “go for it.” In the end, the DMCA is all we have to fight back.


Speaking of “transparency,” it’s worth pointing out that Ms. Sutton also conveniently fails to acknowledge her organization’s own ties to the tech industry, entities that would have a vested interest in seeing the DMCA gutted. Her omission undermines any credibility she may have in terms of her overall arguments. Until she, and those she represents are willing to be transparent about their funding sources, and how this money influences their mission, how can we take her complaints seriously?


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