Piracy is a big issue, there’s no doubt about it. Certainly with Hollywood blockbusters flopping all summer, there’s more concern than ever about pirated TV content, movies, and music eating into the profits of the studios and record labels.
The biggest tool in the Studio arsenal for protecting it’s content is to issue takedown notices to websites illegally hosting copyrighted material. The MPAA and the RIAA argue that this isn’t enough power, they want to be able to block websites that host content, without any kind of judicial oversight or review. They want to be able to censor the web as they see fit in the name of preventing piracy.
There are a couple problems with this, the most obvious being that giving a few private organizations that kind of power is obviously problematic. There are more insidious problems, however, already cropping up with the existing takedown framework. Some of the big movie studios have demonstrated a history of using Takedown notices on websites like youtube, and within the DNS itself to target media that competes with its own. These false takedowns are anticompetitive. Fox’s “Homeland” takedowns have been applied to Cory Doctorow’s book by the same name, and Warner Brothers has been caught submitting false takedowns to youtube, and others. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, and what we’re hearing about. There are also instances where website filters designed to protect copyrighted material are preventing independent artists from promoting their work.
That gets at the very heart of the War for the Web. Is the Internet about a few big voices, or is it a forum for everyone? That’s the question that our generation has to answer, and if we don’t make our voices heard, we’re not going to get the answer we want.