Several public-interest groups have come forward with a six-point plan to protect fair use in filtering for copyrighted material. These principles respond to media producers' call for comprehensive copyright filtering of user-generated content and Google's recent announcement that it will begin filtering Youtube videos for infringing material. The media companies would require filtering that would identify infringing material based on mechanical comparison to reference material provided by the media companies, and would block material that matched copyrighted content before it got online. Google's plan, by contrast, would identify matching material after it had been uploaded to the site, and would allow content owners to choose between having the material taken down or allowing it to remain up in exchange for a percentage of the page's ad revenue.
That poses a problem according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge, the Berkman Center for Internet and Society and others, who say it will stifle fair use. Fair use is the doctrine which allows some limited uses of copyrighted material, especially when the new use transforms the old material instead of serving as a replacement. Short excerpts of book reprinted in a book review for the purpose of criticism, for example, are fair use and don't require the copyright owner's permission. Just how much taking is a fair use, however, is dependent on the individual circumstances of each taking – so machine-filtering can't adequately account for it. To combat this, the groups' six-point plan calls for a “wide berth for transformative uses,” in which filtering would only be used to take down material which was an almost verbatim full copy of a copyrighted work. They also mandate notice to users whose material is flagged by the filters, along with the opportunity to contest the accusation and have the material restored to the service if mistakenly taken down. Since Google's is the only plan in operation right now, they've got the lead, and only time and lobbying will see whose principles make it to fruition.