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Stop the Website Censorship Machine – Notice and Staydown

Dangerous new censorship proposals are on their way. Lobbyists for the music and publishing industries are pulling out all the stops to impose Censorship Machinery on the American people via extreme new copyright rules. They want to force websites to build expensive robot programs to spy for copyrighted material. This means they will block content before you post it – before you’ve done anything wrong – and violate your free expression on-line.

U.S. copyright lobbyists even wrote to Trump attacking civil society efforts for fairer copyright and calling our desire to protect free expression “dangerous”, so new rules could pass quickly unless we show the U.S. Copyright Office just how many Americans oppose this censorship plan.

Directly following Trump’s victory, recording industry associations wrote to him asking that he demand tech companies create new ways to restrict access online and make sure they get the compensation they feel they deserve. Then the Copyright Alliance wrote to him aggressively pushing protectionist measures that would secure existing monopolies and stop new business emerging.

The system they are proposing is officially called “Notice and Staydown”. But we know what it really is: a censorship machine. It would force our favorite websites to create or buy expensive new technologies to monitor and filter the content we create. It would put a huge technical burden on new websites and businesses to find ways to fulfill these obligations — putting a chill on innovation.

The Censorship Machine means every website that allows users to upload content must have automated programs which detect and flag copyrighted content as it is uploaded. Its algorithm would block the person from uploading the content altogether, rather than taking it down after it has been fairly assessed.

Monitoring billions of posts per day can only be done with automated systems that unfairly censor legal speech and expression. These programs detect and block content, regardless of whether or not it is legitimate or legal. These bots won’t be able to recognize legal exceptions for parody, public interest, and fair use. It will stop you sharing fan fiction, memes, video remixes, gifs, critiques, online reviews, home videos, and all sorts of brilliant, creative things. Even posting a comment on a blog or news story could cause you to run afoul of the censorship machine.

Instead of a Censorship Machine, we need positive rules that respect creators, prioritize free expression, and are shaped democratically. In these turbulent times we simply cannot afford to have powerful mass censorship tools in the hands of lobbyists and government officials.

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