New Bill Would Effectively Require Anti-Piracy Filters

A Senate bill introduced Friday could reshape online copyright law by effectively requiring web companies to use as yet undeveloped filtering tools, which would be created by the Copyright Office.

The “Strengthening Measures to Advance Rights Technologies (SMART) Copyright Act of 2022,” introduced by Senators Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), specifically would task the Copyright Office with developing “technical measures” aimed at combatting online copyright infringement.

YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and other companies that allow users to post content would then be required to use those technical measures, or face potential multimillion-dollar copyright infringement lawsuits over content uploaded by users.

Currently, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's “safe harbor” provisions generally protect web companies from infringement liability for users' posts, provided the companies take down the material on request.

The record industry, which has long criticized web companies for allegedly enabling copyright infringement, praised the bill.

“Congress intended that creators and platforms work together to protect copyright and consumers and this proposal achieves that goal,” Mitch Glazier, Chairman & CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America stated Friday.

Other groups representing content owners -- including the American Association of Publishers and the Independent Film & Television Alliance -- also praised the bill.

But digital rights advocates say the legislation threatens the open internet.

“This bill will force digital platforms and websites to implement technical measures that monitor all content that users upload, automatically scrutinizing everything we write, create, and upload online for the sake of copyright protection,”  Nicholas Garcia, policy counsel at Public Knowledge, stated Friday.

He added that the bill “opens the door to online censorship on a massive scale.”

Garcia also noted that the technical measures don't yet exist, adding that the Copyright Office “has very little technical expertise.”

Tillis stated Friday in a document titled “Myths & Facts” that the Copyright Office's expertise in legal matters “can assist with ensuring the right balance is struck between curbing infringement that undermines authors’ constitutional rights and promoting online availability of material.”

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