New Public Knowledge Paper Emphasizes That New Copyright Protection Measures Require Consensus

Latest Public Knowledge paper by Nicholas P. Garcia explores standard technical measures in copyright law and highlights the success of the current decision-making model.

Today, we’re happy to announce our newest white paper, “Consensus, Not Command: A Smarter Approach to Standard Technical Measures,” by Public Knowledge Policy Counsel Nicholas P. Garcia. 

The paper explores a little-known facet of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA, that outlines a voluntary and consensus-driven process for adopting “standard technical measures,”  or STMs, that enable copyright identification and enforcement. Codified at Section 512(i) of Title 17, this law has been in place for almost 25 years. Through the inclusive and multistakeholder approach in this law, no technical measure has ever garnered the broad consensus needed to become standard under this section, and for good reasons. The paper examines the technological, legal, and economic factors that have weighed against STMs and highlights the success of the current decision-making model in avoiding impractical, costly, and harmful technology mandates.

The paper also provides forward-looking guidance for future policy surrounding STMs, including:

  • The hazards of algorithmic filtering technology as a potential STM;
  • The dangers of recent legislative and regulatory actions to undermine the successful multistakeholder and consensus-based framework; and
  • Recommendations for modernizing copyright registration to enable the development of modern, inclusive, and publicly accessible copyright identification technology.

The following can be attributed to Nicholas P. Garcia, Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:

“Finding the right balance in copyright enforcement online is an ongoing challenge, but one area that does not need any tweaking is standard technical measures. Congress did the right thing when it set up a framework for developing STMs that put broad consensus and multi-industry assessment of the technology first. By following the technology and trusting in the standards-setting process, we have avoided being stuck with antiquated technology mandates, costly barriers to innovation, and potential harms to free expression and creativity.”

You may view the paper here. You may also view our blog post, “Not so Smart: The SMART Copyright Act’s Dangerous Approach to Online Copyright Protection,” for more information.

Members of the media may contact Communications Director Shiva Stella with inquiries, interview requests, or to join the Public Knowledge press list at or 405-249-9435.