Research Handbooks in Intellectual Property series
Edited by Christophe Geiger
Chapter 24: Digital copyright enforcement measures and their human rights threats
In an essay published in The New Yorker in May 1960, A.J. Liebling reminded us that ‘[f]reedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.’ A few years later, the internet as we know it began to develop. With the arrival of the World Wide Web in the late 1980s and the rapid proliferation of new communications technologies in the following two decades, most people now enjoy the freedom that comes with owning a printing press. Sadly, the advent of these technologies has also led copyright holders and their supportive governments to push for higher standards of protection and enforcement at both the domestic and international levels. Failing to strike the appropriate balance between proprietary interests and public access needs, these standards have now threatened the protection of free speech, free press, privacy, due process and other human rights. To combat the challenges posed by peer-to-peer file-sharing technologies, the entertainment industry began deploying aggressive tactics toward individual end-users, online service providers (OSPs) and other third parties at the turn of this millennium. They have also lobbied heavily for new digital copyright enforcement measures ranging from heavy criminal penalties to online filtering and surveillance measures to internet disconnection. Thus far, the industry’s efforts have had only mixed results and have been heavily criticized by policymakers, academic commentators, consumer advocates, civil liberties groups and internet user communities.
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