Robots are already prowling the world looking for copyright infringement. And this is just the beginning…

The future could belong to joyless robots. They would control what we see and hear. They would scour our social network activity, and could pose a serious risk to freedom of expression. These robots already exist: they are digital, and their task is to search for prohibited content.

Advances in programming sophistication allow searches not just in text, but also in audio and video. Viewers of the 2012 Democrat National Convention, fans of the Mars rover, and the online audience for a recent science fiction awards ceremony have all recently had their streaming interrupted by content monitoring algorithms designed to take down copyright infringement wherever they find it. Programs automatically blocked these streams because they thought that they had detected the misuse of copyright material.