Copyright law a poor shield against online harassment

Sarah Jeong's book The Internet of Garbage was first published in 2015. Then a timely primer about online harassment, the structure of the internet, and why corporate policies can't and won't deal with it, things have since changed: everything is now worse. The Verge is publishing a new edition, The Internet of Garbage 1.5 [Amazon], which they're also giving away as a free-of-charge eBook. This excerpt about copyright law and harassment—especially the complex dangers of using the former to counteract the latter—is an excellent taster.

When people are harassed on the internet, the instinctive feeling of those targeted is that the internet is out of control and must be reined in. The most prominent and broad regulation of the internet is through copyright, as publicized in the thousands of lawsuits that the Recording Industry Association of America launched against individual downloaders, the subpoenas the RIAA issued to the ISPs to unmask downloaders, and the RIAA and MPAA's massive lawsuits against the Napsters, Groksters, and even YouTubes of the world.

In our mass cultural consciousness, we have absorbed the overall success of the RIAA and the MPAA in these suits, and have come to believe that copyright law is how one successfully manages to reach through a computer screen and punch someone else in the face.