OpenMedia

Stop the Secrecy

EFF: Which companies will protect you from copyright and trademark bullies?

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 16:14 -- Danielle Gannon

Who's protecting your speech against false copyright or trademark complaints? EFF finds out which companies are willing to go to bat for you.

Report by EFF

When somebody wants to silence speech, they often use the quickest method available. When the speech is hosted on a major online platform, that method is usually a copyright or trademark complaint. For many years, EFF has worked with people whose lawful speech has been unfairly targeted by these sorts of complaints. We've observed that some approaches tend to work better than others in preventing that sort of deliberate abuse, as well as the casual censorship that comes from haphazard and dragnet approaches to policing online infringement.

In the copyright context, the contours of service provider policies are generally set by the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Those provisions outline the practices to which online service providers must adhere in order to avoid copyright liability for the actions of their users. But services have some flexibility in how they implement those requirements, and can make decisions that optimize for defending user speech—or instead for minimizing their own legal costs, reducing engineering requirements, or building relationships with rightsholder groups, for example.

When it comes to trademarks, the absence of a detailed statutory safe harbor can mean more uncertainty for service providers, but also more flexibility. Some service providers are very conservative in their response to trademark complaints, taking down content quickly when there’s a complaint, even where there’s little real risk of liability. But other service providers choose to adopt policies that accept that a small degree of legal risk is worthwhile to protect their users. For example, they can require trademark complaints to be complete and valid, can make sure that content is only taken down after human review and consideration, and can give users a chance to challenge those complaints.

Read the full report at EFF.