rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Express yourself, don't repress yourself

This article is a part of a series on the Our Digital Future report, our crowdsourced roadmap for Free Expression that proposes fair and balanced copyright reform for the 21st Century. See Part 1 here.

Put on your glasses, nerds, it’s gonna be a wild ride.

A new leaked draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s (TPP) Intellectual Property chapter was released by Wikileaks late last week, and although the provisions change from leak to leak, this one confirms our greatest fears: it’s still going to censor our Internet.

This is despite the fact that citizens’ advocacy groups have been painfully clear about the fact that Internet users would like to see the more restrictive conditions revisited -- like extending copyright terms to stretch almost two lifetimes -- and for proposals amounting to Internet censorship to be removed entirely.

At first glance, it’s easy to miss the connection between copyright laws and censorship -- how could something that was designed to protect the original owner of a creation be abused in order to prevent Internet users from posting and accessing the information that they want online?

Without leading us too far down a technical rabbit-hole, the template for Internet censorship as we know it comes from overzealous enforcement regimes -- like the Digital Millenium Copyright Act found in the U.S. -- that require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to remove content that has been flagged as purportedly containing copyright-infringing material.

Article 19; Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The problem with these systems is that they lack a layer of judicial oversight between the copyright holder and the ISP that would allow for verification of the copyright infringement. All this is to say that if a copyright holder sends a notice to an ISP requesting the takedown of allegedly infringing material -- it will be taken down. No judge, no jury, no due process.

The proof is in the pudding -- and this pudding leaves a bitter aftertaste. (See volunteer and community-member Cynthia Khoo’s blog about how copyright is most commonly used to censor online content.)

The true problem with this system -- called notice-and-takedown -- is that despite robust criticism it is being pushed aggressively the United States Trade Representative as the most effective method of preventing copyright infringement, and would become the defacto model for all 12 signatories to the TPP. Not only are they pushing other countries to comply with their rules -- but they’re also receiving heavy pushback from other nations -- most notably Canada.

Intellectual Property expert, Michael Geist, highlighted in his blog last week that Canada’s resistance to U.S. pressure on copyright reform is important, because Canadians have fought hard to design and implement a more flexible set of rules - known as notice-and-notice.

Under this system, ISPs are given notice from a copyright holder about allegedly infringing material, and instead of removing or blocking the content themselves, the ISPs pass along the notice to the subscriber. As we noted in the Our Digital Future report, the effectiveness of the notice-and-notice system is reason alone to implement it -- over half of alleged infringers do not repeat-infringe after one notice, and over 80 percent cease the allegedy-infringing activity after two.

There has been some indication in the leaked negotiating texts that exceptions will be made for countries with existing frameworks -- like Canada -- but we are left wondering where that will leave many other nations, who perhaps do not have as strong of a negotiating position. Will they be relegated to the repressive notice-and-takedown system, when experts worldwide are criticizing its unwillingness to include provisions that prioritize free expression.

The results of the Our Digital Future survey were clear: respondents from 155 countries overwhelmingly chose “prioritizing free expression” as their top priority when making rules regarding copyright, and we’re working at OpenMedia to make sure that becomes a reality.

Far from simply ensuring fair enforcement of copyright laws, prioritizing free expression means working to ensure four key criteria are met:

 

As Jeff S. from the U.S. shared with us when he went Face-to-Face with Internet Censorship in the TPP:

“This sounds like more corporate welfare: a handout to protect [Big Media’s] bottom line, while sticking it to every day people. Protecting corporate media conglomerates while stifling creativity is never a good thing for a society. Governments and corporations are both supposed to serve people. Not the other way around.”

Head on down to www.OpenMedia.org/DigitalFuture to see more about how we can make the Internet a more inclusive platform for Our Digital Future.

Learn more about our digital future

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.