Failure of DMCA and TPP is going to be worse

It should come as no surprise to many of my readers that I’m not really a big fan of DMCA. I believe that this law hinders innovation in the arts and sciences. I you are interested in a very nuanced and well articulated argument against Copyright, I suggest you download Lawrence Lessig‘s book Code 2.0 – it’s a law book, but it’s free and interesting. However, I have written about this topic before if you’re like a bit of a synopsis.

The DMCA is a law that requires companies to help copyright holders manage and protect their copyrighted material. This results in something called a Take Down Notice, where the company that receives the take down notice must remove the offending material. In many cases the copyright holders are requiring companies like Google to create tools to allow them to automatically search for offending material.

Growing number of Take Down requests

Growing number of Take Down requests accessed 1/5/2014

For a growing company like Twitch.TV which streams live video game broadcasts and services several hundred thousand viewers at once, may cripple them in the future. According to a recent George Mason University study, the DMCA take down notice process has been a complete failure. The law was never intended to function in the manner that it has been.

The take down notice was designed as a stop gap measure and compromise between copyright holders and the new technologists on the web. The DMCA was passed in 1998, most of the internet that we know and love didn’t exist then. It was likely that only a few people had even started using Google when the law was passed, YouTube was nothing more than a pipe dream, Napster and sites like it were the major driving force for this law.

Over the past few years we’ve had several attempts to expand on the DMCA and make matters significantly more restrictive on the Internet. For example we had the SOPA/PIPA, CISPA laws that the internet killed with a blackout. The blackout is an example of what Rebecca MacKinnon argued in her book “Consent of the Networked” where law makers need to look at the interconnectedness of the world and how these laws reach beyond our boarders and impact the broader world.

Unfortunately, these types of laws aren’t dead and DMCA isn’t going away despite what GMU recommends. Currently TPP is working it’s way through the “Fast Track Process” (fast track essentially allows the President to enter into trade agreements powers not authorized by the Constitution) and if it is successful there are copyright provisions that are very damaging for both Copyright Law and Patents. The copyright provisions are stronger than DMCA, similar to SOPA, and would force all signers to follow the rule of the trade agreement over their own established laws, including the US. If you are interested in reading TPP here’s the full agreement for download at Wikileaks.

What can we do to prevent TPP from making our copyright lives worse? Well, it appears there’s limited things we can do. Of course you can contact your representatives, however, Darrel Issa was already refused to see the agreement. However, more interest from the general population can only be a good thing. We’re going to have elections this year in the US, so it’s a good idea to get people thinking about this trade agreement now and stop it before it’s ratified.

Protecting the internet

As I mentioned in my blog post from yesterday, the internet is extremely important. We all know that. It’s fun to use it’s become an incredibly important part of our economy and will continue to grow in general importance. In some ways Thomas Friedman is correct in the book the World is Flat, the internet has increased the ability for people all over the world to compete in the same way. However, where he goes wrong is that he assumes that this flattening and economic importance will protect the internet.

Unfortunately this isn’t the case. We, the users of the internet, will have to continually work to protect the internet from special interest groups that seek to control its use. We have seen this in the US with SOPA/PIPA and with ACTA in Europe (And now Trans Pacific Partnership). A small group of companies in an industry that isn’t really able to innovate is attempting to dominate the manner in which the internet is being used. Unfortunately, despite these efforts, there are already more agreements in the works. The most recent in the US is a bill being pushed by our dear friend Lamar Smith from Texas. Yup, same guy that did SOPA he’s pushing a law that will require all ISPs to collect data on their users and store it for over 6 months. In addition websites are going to be required to collect similar data. The goal of the bill is to prevent child pornography.

This type of law is also being considered in Canada and there was a recent protest where a twitter user was pretending to be Vic Toews. This has rather upset Mr. Toews an MP there. However, these bills essentially destroy any sort of privacy on the internet. In many cases web companies simply hand over data to law enforcement agencies and governments without any need for a warrant or a court order. Twitter is one of the few companies that puts up a fight about user data. As users we really don’t know how often our data is being handed over to any sort of governmental organization.

In addition to these individual laws and treaties China and Russia want the UN to become a governing body over the internet. I think this is a very interesting idea, however with the two countries that are pushing this change it also has cause for concern. Both of these countries really work to control the access of information for their respective peoples. A treaty at this level may make it more difficult for individual country’s industries really impact laws relating to the internet and freedom. I am going to be watching this very carefully.

As users we need to be aware of these sorts of developments and make sure that we are active in protecting the thing we all love and use on a regular basis. The internet.