Filesharing highlights collision of free speech and copyright
An article “The First Amendment and what it means for free speech online”published by Sam Cook on 10 February 2017 in VPN & Privacy offers an interesting perspective on how free speech is coming face to face with other legal issues, such as copyright laws written into the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and filesharing. Filesharing sites and those who utilize them have taken on increasing amounts of scrutiny. In the U.S., in particular, the cross section of free speech and filesharing come together under the shadow of the First Amendment. Do file sharers have the right to First Amendment anonymity? Or do copyright holders maintain the right to reveal and pursue those who are illegally sharing their content? And perhaps an even bigger question: How do either of these issues fit under the purview of the First Amendment in the first place?
Different groups of internet denizens have different concerns when it comes to First Amendment rights on the web. Journalists must be concerned about what they publish and about the potential for libel; social media users must worry about the consequences of what they say or share online, as well as the privacy of that material; content creators must worry about whether what they create and share may be considered obscene; all internet users must be cognizant of net neutrality and the implications of its loss.
Much of the internet freedom debate deals directly with copyrights holders’ desires to locate and sue those who share files illegally, and around what is and is not considered hateful and violent speech that moves a step too far in the wrong direction. However, the very scope of the internet covers all facets of free speech, and in many ways, expands the boundaries and definition of the First Amendment.