Today we, along with EFF and the Open Technology Initiative, filed comments in the Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force Inquiry on Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Internet Economy. The Task Force, run by the NTIA is the Department’s attempt to start thinking about Copyright issues and how they impact the economy. Our filing might be interesting for you because it summarizes many of the major issues in copyright policy today.
We start by discussing streaming and cyber lockers, sites like Dropbox, Ubuntu One, and YouSendIt that help people share large files with each other. The comments emphasize that these services are tools like any other. Although they can be used for infringing copyright, they also can be used to share files between collaborators, sync files across multiple computers, and provide access to files on the go.
The comments then shift to educating the Task Force about the use of litigation as a tool to reduce copyright infringement. In short, while litigation imposes costs on the public and the judicial system and is disruptive to the lives of thousands of people, it does not seem to be an effective way to reduce digital copyright infringement.
We then move to the limits of the U.S. Government’s power online. Although some have tried to work around these limitations with proposed laws like COICA, these attempts do more to break the Internet than prevent copyright infringement. As long as websites operate overseas, U.S. law can only do so much to crack down on online infringement. That is why it is so important to give consumers legitimate ways to access content that work for them.
There are also limits to what technology can do to prevent infringement online. Snooping on every bit sent across a network in search of infringement is both incredibly invasive and easily circumvented by encryption and other obfuscation techniques. Perhaps more importantly, there is no “judge in a box” that can accurately determine if a copy is protected by fair use.
One way to forward is to embrace voluntary collective licensing. This would allow creators to create and innovators to innovate, each knowing that they have a reliable partner.
One of the most important balances in copyright policy today is the protection granted to intermediaries. We urge the Task Force to remember the benefits that safe harbors provide, and to avoid the temptation to deputize intermediaries as copyright police.
Finally, we highlight what may be the most important innovation policy of them all: Net Neutrality. Without a level playing field, new artists and innovators simply cannot compete, and the Internet economy will stagnate.