New project tracks censorship worldwide, documenting copyright enforcement’s effects on freedom of expression
By ECM Plus staff
The global collaboration documents how copyright enforcement is being used to censor online free expression in nations around the world.
Global Chokepoints, funded in part through a grant by the Open Society Foundation, is an online resource created to document and monitor proposals from around the world to turn Internet intermediaries into copyright police. These proposals harm Internet users’ rights of privacy, due process and freedom of expression, as well as endanger the future of the free and open Internet. Global Chokepoints is designed to provide empirical information to digital activists and policymakers and to help coordinate international opposition to attempts to cut off free expression through misguided copyright laws and transnational agreements, like the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).
Global Chokepoints will document the escalating global efforts to turn Internet intermediaries into chokepoints for online free expression. Internet intermediaries all over the world—from Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to community-driven sites like Twitter and YouTube to online payment processors—are increasingly facing demands by IP rightsholders and governments to remove, filter, or block allegedly infringing or illegal content, as well as to collect and disclose their users’ personal data.
EFF said it is unclear whether and under what circumstances Internet intermediaries have liability for content posted by their users. Hotly-contested court cases in Europe, Australia, and elsewhere are considering how copyright law fits with obligations to protect Internet users’ rights of privacy, due process, and freedom of expression.
Global Chokepoints analyzes global trends in four types of copyright censorship: 1) three-strikes policies and laws that require Internet intermediaries to terminate their users’ Internet access on repeat allegations of copyright infringement; 2) requirements for Internet intermediaries to filter all Internet communications for potentially copyright-infringing material; 3) ISP obligations to block access to websites that allegedly infringe or facilitate copyright infringement; and 4) efforts to force intermediaries to disclose the identities of their customers to IP rightsholders upon allegations of copyright infringement. The site includes links to digital rights organizations, consumer groups, law school clinics, and technology industry groups that are opposing the spread of overbroad copyright policing efforts, as well as national advocacy campaigns to protect the free and open Internet and citizens’ fundamental rights.
“IP rightsholders are attempting to choke-off online free expression through overbroad laws, litigation, and coercive agreements that require Internet intermediaries to filter, block and disconnect their customers,” said EFF International Intellectual Property Director Gwen Hinze. “As both the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression and the European Court of Justice have recently recognized, these initiatives harm Internet users’ rights of privacy, due process and freedom of expression, and endanger the future of the free and open Internet.”
Global Chokepoints is launching with in-depth analysis of ten regions: Chile, Columbia, the European Union, France, Ireland, New Zealand, Spain, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The website will expand to include additional regions and countries in the coming months and will be updated as new copyright proposals and agreements are introduced.
“Laws around the world are forcing service providers like ISPs to act as judges for what’s valid speech on the Internet, using copyright as an excuse to cut off speech and infringe on the privacy rights of users,” EFF Activism Director Rainey Reitman said. “For example, in the United States, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) could undermine long-standing legal protections for intermediaries and could potentially ‘blacklist’ many popular websites–like Etsy, Flickr, and Vimeo. The Global Chokepoints project will help concerned citizens fight dangerous legislation around the world.”