Upload filters: unjustified blocks, unfair appeals process, and a system rigged in favour of Big Content

The EU Copyright Directive contains one of the worst ideas in modern copyright: what amounts to a requirement to filter uploads on major sites.  Despite repeated explanations of why this would cause huge harm to both creators and members of the public, EU politicians were taken in by the soothing words of the legislation’s proponents, who even went so far as to deny that upload filters would be required at all.

The malign effects of the EU Copyright Directive have not yet been felt, as national legislatures struggle to implement a law with deep internal contradictions.  However, upload filters are already used on an ad hoc basis, for example YouTube’s Content ID.  There is thus already mounting evidence of the problems with the approach.   A new report, from the Colombian Fundación Karisma, adds to the concerns by providing additional examples of how creators have already suffered from upload filters:

This research found multiple cases of unjustified notifications of supposed violation of copyright directed at content that is either part of the public domain, original content, or instances of judicial overreach of copyright law. The digital producers that are the target of these unjust notifications affirm that the appeal process and counter-notification procedures don’t help them protect their rights. The appeals interface of the different platforms that were taken into account did not help resolve the cases, which leaves digital creators defenseless with no alternative other than what they can obtain from their contacts. This system damages the capacity of these producers to grow, maintain and monetize an audience at the same time that it affects the liberty of expression of independent producers as it creates a strong disincentive for them. On the contrary, this system incentivizes the bigger production companies to claim copyright on content to which they hold no rights.

As that summary notes, it’s not just that material was blocked without justification. Compounding the problem are appeal processes that are biased against creators, and a system that is rigged in favour of Big Content to the point where companies can falsely claim copyright on the work of others. The Fundación Karisma report is particularly valuable because it describes what has been happening in Colombia, rounding out other work that typically looks at the situation in the US and EU.

Featured image by Tiia Monto.

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