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CC Opposes Mandatory Copyright Filters, as Well as Using CC to Justify Them


Last Friday, United States (US) senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the “Strengthening Measures to Advance Rights Technologies (SMART) Copyright Act of 2022.”

Their bill proposes to have the US Copyright Office mandate that all websites accepting user-uploaded material implement technologies to automatically filter that content. We’ve long believed that these kinds of mandates are overbroad, speech-limiting, and bad for both creators and reusers. (We’re joined in this view by others such as Techdirt, Public Knowledge, and EFF, who have already stated their opposition.)

But one part of this attempt stands out to us: the list of “myths” Sen. Tillis released to accompany the bill. In particular, Tillis lists the concern that it is a “filtering mandate that will chill free speech and harm users” as a myth instead of a true danger to free expression–and he cites the existence of CC’s metadata as support for his position. 

Creative Commons is strongly opposed to mandatory content filtering measures. And we particularly object to having our work and our name used to imply support for a measure that undermines free expression which CC seeks to protect.

CC licensing is designed to let creators choose to share their work beyond what copyright allows by default–to grant more permissions, not impose more restrictions. And while our license metadata does let reusers know critical information about licensed rights, this metadata exists to convey important information about licensed works, not to restrict their use. Critically, CC licenses were never designed or intended to override the limitations and exceptions to copyright that allow for free expression. 

We believe in giving creators choices about how to share their work, and the importance of respecting those choices. But those rights to choose extend only as far as copyright does. Limitations and exceptions are a crucial feature of a copyright system that truly serves the public, and filter mandates fail to respect them. Because of this, licensing metadata should not be used as a mandatory upload filter–and especially not CC license data. We do not support or endorse the measures in this bill, and we object to having our name used to imply otherwise.

Posted 22 March 2022