Sunday, May 22, 2011

EU And China Harmonize Their Approach On Censorship

For quite some time now, we've pointed out that people need to recognize for every attempt to "clamp down" on intermediaries in the copyright debate, we're really handing authoritarian regimes all the fodder they need to justify other forms of censorship. Glyn Moody points us to a simple comparison, showing how immediately following an EU plan to increase liability on intermediaries (secondary liability or third party liability), China announced very similar plans on intermediary liability. Remember, intermediary liability is the key tool in how China's "Great Firewall" works. The government sends out vague notes about general things it doesn't like -- and makes it clear if ISPs let that content through, they'll face liability. The response is that they aggressively censor.

Many copyright system defenders insist that the two situations are entirely different. In their minds, intermediary liability concerning copyright infringement is "good" because it's stopping illegal behavior. But that's the exact same argument made by the Chinese government. It's stopping people from speaking out, because that form of speaking out is illegal and can cause great harm. The similarities between the EU proposal and the China proposal at the very least suggest that China is learning that mimicking Western claims concerning copyright law will always give it good cover for censoring at home.

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