We do a lot of railing against the mammoth internet platforms (Google and Facebook) and other internet companies that are harming not just the creative industries but society at large. But, occasionally, it’s important to also take time to reflect on the good things that happen in between the lies, acts of corruption and criminality facilitated by the world’s biggest online platforms.
And hey, would you look at that – it just so happens to be Thanksgiving! A time for football, mashed potatoes, political arguments with your insufferable uncle, and, most importantly, expressing gratitude for the year that was.
So, before we get too deep into the cranberry sauce and apple crisp martinis (you thought we were going to say, “apple pie,” didn’t you? HA.), let’s take a moment to go ‘round the table and say what we’re thankful for in 2019.
1. A small-claims copyright system that’s a big win for creatives.
Many years in the making, the CASE Act finally nosed its way forward in 2019, sailing through the House with a 410-6 vote on its way to the Senate! The Bill, if signed into law, will establish a Copyright Claims Board where individual and small-business creatives can file copyright claims without resorting to expensive federal litigation. And it’s only been 10 years since it was first proposed by a cross-section of copyright and technology experts!
Finally, creatives who are not media powerhouses (read: most creatives) will be empowered to contest infringements they once would have had to let go because the cost of enforcement was too high. In an era marked by political division, the CASE Act has enjoyed bipartisan support at every stage of its life, proving that copyright and creativity are )disingenuous attacks from the Google/Facebook shill machine aside) issues that everyone can get behind.
2. Congress finally took Section 230 seriously and they are now properly roasting Zuckerberg.
Remember back in 2018, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified on Capitol Hill following the Cambridge Analytica dust-up? It was not pretty, and not only because Zuckerberg wilted under the pressure and received the comeuppance he so rightfully deserved. Congress peppered the tech CEO with questions that were left either half-answered or with a promise to have Facebook follow up with an answer.
Then, in October of this year, Zuckerberg returned to D.C. for questioning. Members of Congress fired up an even toastier grill session, discussing hot-button topics ranging from foreign election meddling to Facebook’s disconcerting decision to stop fact-checking political ads. At times, their angry questioning left Zuckerberg speechless… and we’re thankful for, if nothing else, the chance to see him squirm a little for what his company has done.
But, while watching Zuckerberg get roasted over the coals is satisfying, it won’t change much in the long run (less than a week after his testimony, Facebook announced ascendant profits and revenue in their third-quarter earnings report, showing that seemingly no amount of shaming can stop their financial juggernaut). What could help curb the harms he has helped cause, however, is a change to the internet safe harbor laws – in particular, the liability shield granted to the internet platforms by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Since before Google and Facebook were but a glint in investors’ eyes, Section 230 has largely absolved internet companies from responsibility for the user-generated content on their platforms. This was a protection given to the then-nascent tech industry by Congress in the mid-90s – at the time, policymakers could not have possibly imagined how it would turn out. It’s the main reason why the platforms have not provided permanent and lasting solutions to terrible problems such as human trafficking, opioid sales, hate speech, and piracy – because, as the law stands, there is no legal incentive to do so.
But right around the same time they were broiling Zuckerberg in a nice, savory glaze, Congress also was holding a hearing on “Fostering a Healthier Internet to Protect Consumers,” in which they addressed Section 230 in a meaningful and thoughtful way. Before a panel featuring representatives from both Google and its most loyal shill, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, both Democrats and Republicans showed a keen awareness of the problems created by Section 230. Even more shockingly, the lawmakers actually agreed on something – namely, wrote Wired, “that the internet is dark and full of terrors—cyberbullying, scams, deepfakes, election interference, and terrorist content, just to name a few—and that tech companies should be able to fix it.”
Section 230 won’t be revised tomorrow… and maybe not even by the next time we offer up a Thanksgiving round-up. But the nuanced, bipartisan discussion now underway is important. And, it is the clearest warning yet that Congress knows the Facebooks and Googles of the world have gotten away with too much for too long. The goal of #PlatformAccountability draws closer, bit by bit.
3. Our Opposition.
Every Superman needs a Lex Luthor, every Batman needs a Joker, and every creative coalition needs an army of anti-copyright attack dogs. Or, at least this creative coalition does. We live to do battle against those whose mission it is to weaken copyright protections and devalue creative works in the name of their corporate internet overlords.
So, thank you to the Electronic Frontier Foundation for your disingenuous, misleading attacks on the CASE Act and for appointing a new Board Chair whose record makes her a perfect fit at your organization.
Thank you to R Street Institute for your unfounded, misguided belief that piracy has somehow been “curbed” in the era of streaming, when, in fact, the film and television industry will lose more than $52 billion to streaming piracy by 2022. Your stance helps internet platforms like Google, which happens to be one of your benefactors, and harms the rest of us. Thanks for not caring about creative livelihoods in the digital age.
Thank you to Public Knowledge, TechDirt, and all the other tech-funded academics, lobbyists, and glorified spin outlets who help influence policy debates and sway public opinion in ways that ensure the massive internet platforms can never be held accountable for the content on their platforms.
Thank you for giving us a reason to get up in the morning: to fight you to the bitter end.
Lastly, and most of all, we’re thankful for YOU – the people who support our work! It can feel overwhelming to fight for copyright against powerful, staggeringly wealthy forces that have no qualms about using the dirtiest of tricks and the phoniest of arguments. But then we remember who we’re fighting for – a community of millions of workers, whose economic contributions exceed those of the pharmaceutical, agricultural, and aerospace industries. A community whose films, television shows, music, books, and video games connect us to the world more strongly than any cynical social media platform – and will stand the test of time.
You entertain us, you inspire us, you touch our hearts, and you make us think. We’re thankful for YOU and for all your support.
From all of us at CreativeFuture, have a Happy Thanksgiving! And #StandCreative!