The Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School is a leader in the study of the law and policy around the Internet and other emerging technologies.
Whether and when communications platforms like Google, Twitter and Facebook are liable for their users’ online activities is one of the key factors that affects innovation and free speech. Most creative expression today takes place over communications networks owned by private companies. Governments around the world increasingly press intermediaries to block their users’ undesirable online content in order to suppress dissent, hate speech, privacy violations and the like. One form of pressure is to make communications intermediaries legally responsible for what their users do and say. Liability regimes that put platform companies at legal risk for users’ online activity are a form of censorship-by-proxy, and thereby imperil both free expression and innovation, even as governments seek to resolve very real policy problems.
In the United States, the core doctrines of section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act have allowed these online intermediary platforms user generated content to flourish. But, immunities and safe harbors for intermediaries are under threat in the U.S. and globally as governments seek to deputize intermediaries to assist in law enforcement.
To contribute to this important policy debate, CIS studies international approaches to intermediary obligations concerning users’ copyright infringement, defamation, hate speech or other vicarious liabilities, immunities, or safe harbors; publishes a repository of information on international liability regimes and works with global platforms and free expression groups to advocate for policies that will protect innovation, freedom of expression, privacy and other user rights.
My Twitter feed tells me that today is the fifth anniversary of the day the Internet “went dark” in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). For anyone who needs a reminder, SOPA and PIPA were pieces of copyright legislation touted by their proponents as necessary to prevent online piracy and to protect U.S. jobs in the film, television, and music industries. Read more about Remember That Time We Saved the Internet?
The Internet is full of trolls. So it’s no surprise that notice and takedown systems for online speech attract their fair share of them – people insisting that criticism of their scientific research, videos of police brutality, and other legitimate online speech should be removed from Internet platforms. Read more about Using Transparency to Fight Takedown Trolls – A Model from the DMCA
This blog post is excerpted from our filing in response to the U.S. Copyright Office's 2016 Notice and Request for Public Comment on notice and takedown practice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The entire filing is available here. Read more about DMCA Counter-Notice: Does It Work to Correct Erroneous Takedowns?