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.
Read more about Urban Guerrilla & Piracy Surveillance: Accidental Casualties in Fighting Piracy in P2P Networks in EuropeCopyright law is facing its biggest challenge yet as it copes with technological development and an increasingly global information market. The advent of peer-to-peer networks has multiplied the threat to the peaceful enjoyment of copyrights and made any user a potential infringer. Nonetheless, copyright holders, in targeting those users, have greatly impinged on the users' fundamental rights, in particular the right to privacy.
The idea of the Library of Alexandria has powerfully expanded over the centuries, embodying the dream of universal wisdom and knowledge centralized in one single place. Digitization projects, such as the Google books project, are reviving the hope that this dream may come true. Moreover, the ubiquity of the networked environment promises to open access to this uber-library to everybody with an Internet connection. Today the entire collection of human knowledge may be only one click away. Read more about Google Books Rejected: Taking the Orphans to the Digital Public Library of Alexandria