Filtering, Piracy Surveillance, and Disobedience
Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts, Vol. 32, No. 4, 2009
28 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2010
There has always been a cyclical relationship between the prevention of piracy and the protection of civil liberties. While civil liberties advocates previously warned about the aggressive nature of copyright protection initiatives, more recently, a number of major players in the music industry have eventually ceded to less direct forms of control over consumer behavior. As more aggressive forms of consumer control, like litigation, have receded, we have also seen a rise in more passive forms of consumer surveillance. Moreover, even as technology has developed more perfect means for filtering and surveillance over online piracy, a number of major players have opted in favor of “tolerated use,” a term coined by Professor Tim Wu to denote the allowance of uses that may be otherwise infringing, but that are allowed to exist for public use and enjoyment. Thus, while the eventual specter of copyright enforcement and monitoring remains a pervasive digital reality, the market may fuel a broad degree of consumer freedom through the toleration or taxation of certain kinds of activities.
This Article is meant largely to address and to evaluate these shifts by drawing attention to the unique confluence of these two important moments: the growth of tolerated uses, coupled with an increasing trend towards more passive forms of piracy surveillance in light of the balance between copyright enforcement and civil liberties. The content industries may draw upon a broad definition of disobedience in their campaigns to educate the public about copyright law, but the market’s allowance of DRM-free content suggests an altogether different definition. The divide in turn between copyright enforcement and civil liberties results in a perfect storm of uncertainty, suggesting the development of an even further division between the role of the law and the role of the marketplace in copyright enforcement and innovation, respectively.
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