Nonstandard Measures

‘Stay Down’ rules reinforce monopoly and do nothing to put money in working creators’ pockets

A trio of sinister black robots on a black background; their eyes and the rollers on their tank-treads are circle-c copyright symbols. The front-and-center robot has a chest display that reads 'STAY DOWN.'

The U.S. Copyright Office has issued a Notice of Inquiry, seeking comment on whether online services should be legally required to filter all their users’ communications to block copyright infringement, as part of a “Stay Down” system.

The idea is that once a copyright holder notifies a service provider that a certain work can’t be legally posted, the service must filter all their user communications thereafter to ensure that this notice is honored.

I think that creators and creators’ groups should oppose this. Here’s why.

The “standard measures” being discussed are not standard. Indeed, they’re largely found in just two companies: Google (through its Content ID system for YouTube) and Meta/Facebook. There’s a reason only two companies have these filters: They are incredibly expensive. Content ID has cost $100,000,000 and counting (and it only does a tiny fraction of what is contemplated in the proposed rule).

That effectively cements Googbook as the permanent rulers of the internet, since they are the only two social media companies that can afford this stuff.

A nearly identical proposal to this one — Article 13 of the Copyright Directive, since renumbered to Article 17 — went through the EU Parliament in 2019, and both Facebook and YouTube came out in favor of it. They understand that this is a small price to pay for permanently excluding all competitors from the internet.

(It’s worth noting that actually implementing Article 17 with automated filters is likely a violation of both the e-Commerce Directive and the GDPR, both of which ban automated judgements of user communications without explicit opt-in and consent, and there’s every chance that Article 17 will not survive a constitutional challenge in the European Court of Justice.)

Now, some people may be thinking, why should I care if Googbook get to take over the internet, so long as they’re forced to police my copyrights?

I think those people are going to be very disappointed, for three reasons:

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Spies, voting machine companies and Big Pharma are still your natural enemies.

A membership card for the “Anti-Beatle Association.”

Rest in Power, David Graeber

The unexpected death of the anthropologist David Graeber in September 2020 ripped a hole in the hearts of millions of us whose lives had been altered by his books (Debt, The Utopia of Rules, Bullshit Jobs), his work as an anarchist organizer (he is credited with coining “We are the 99%”), his teaching, and his friendship. It’s hard to overstate the mark Graeber left on this world during his too-brief tenure here.

For those of us who counted him as an inspiration, 2021 brought a small consolation: the posthumous publication of The Dawn of Everything, a mammoth book he co-wrote with the archaeologist David Wengrow in a collaborative process that took most of a decade to come to fruition.

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The Ten Types of People

It’s spectrums all the way down.


There’s an old nerd joke that goes, “There are 10 kinds of people in this world —those who understand binary and those who don’t.” The joke is that in binary math (that is, base two), you count using only one and zero, so 1 is 1, 10 is two, 11 is three, 100 is four, 101 is five, and so on.

There’s a slightly newer nerd joke that goes, “There are ten kinds of people in the world, those who understand binary, those who don’t — and those who understand ternary.” Ternary is base three, which counts like this: 1 is 1, 2 is two, 10 is three, 11 is four, 12 is five, 20 is six, and so on.

You could continue this joke ad infinitum, simply by referring to a handy list of numeral prefixes: “Those who understand binary, those who understand ternary, those who don’t, and those who understand quaternary” (base four) or “quinary” (base five) or senary (base six), etc etc etc.

The thing I like about this joke is that it challenges your assumptions about categorization, reminding you that there’s no way to really know how many buckets things might be sorted into.

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Pluralistic: 09 Dec 2021

Today's links

  • Electrify: Saul Griffith's visionary, practical program for a US clean energy transition.
  • This day in history: 2011, 2016
  • Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming/recent appearances, current writing projects, current reading

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Pluralistic: 08 Dec 2021

Today's links

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Pluralistic: 07 Dec 2021

Today's links

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Pluralistic: 05 Dec 2021

Today's links

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Pluralistic: 02 Dec 2021

Today's links

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Pluralistic: 01 Dec 2021

Today's links

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