Thursday, September 13, 2018

EU Approves Controversial Copyright Directive

James Vincent:

The directive was originally rejected by MEPs in July following criticism of two key provisions: Articles 11 and 13, dubbed the “link tax” and “upload filter” by critics. However, in parliament this morning, an updated version of the directive was approved, along with amended versions of Articles 11 and 13. The final vote was 438 in favor and 226 against.

The fallout from this decision will be far-reaching, and take a long time to settle. The directive itself still faces a final vote in January 2019 (although experts say it’s unlikely it will be rejected). After that it will need to be implemented by individual EU member states, who could very well vary significantly in how they choose to interpret the directive’s text.


The legislation requires that platforms proactively work with rightsholders to stop users uploading copyrighted content. The only way to do so would be to scan all data being uploaded to sites like YouTube and Facebook. This would create an incredible burden for small platforms, and could be used as a mechanism for widespread censorship.

Via Dan Masters:

This is a shocking attack to the very nature of the internet—I’m surprised it didn’t gain as much coverage as similar US bills.


Worst possible outcome in the European Parliament copyright vote: MEPs vote for #uploadfilters , #linktax, a narrow #TDM exception for data-mining, no #freedomofpanorama—plus a new IP right for sports organizers.


As I was saying... GDPR is the biggest backdoor ever created and the single greatest threat to data privacy. The EU made your data available to anyone that can get your password and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Previously: Europe’s New Copyright Rules.

This is legislative fantasizing at its finest: Internet platforms should get a license from all copyright holders, but if they don’t want to (or, more realistically, are unable to), then they should keep all copyrighted material off of their platforms, even as they allow all non-infringing work and exceptions. This last bit is a direct response to the “meme ban” framing: memes are OK, but the exception “should only be applied in certain special cases which do not conflict with normal exploitation of the work or other subject-matter concerned and do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the rightholder.” That’s nearly impossible for a human to parse; expecting a scalable solution — which yes, inevitably means content filtering — is absurd. There simply is no way, especially at scale, to preemptively eliminate copyright violations without a huge number of mistakes.

The question, then, is in what direction those mistakes should run. Through what, in retrospect, are fortunate accidents of history, Internet companies are mostly shielded from liability, and need only respond to takedown notices in a reasonable amount of time. In other words, the system is biased towards false negatives: if mistakes are made, it is that content that should not be uploaded is. The Copyright Directive, though, would shift the bias towards false positive: it mistakes are made, it is that allowable content will be blocked for fear of liability.

Article 13 would make it so that every online community, platform, or service would have to implement filters for copyrighted content. Even worse, these latest proposals have gutted exceptions for artists and scientists. The Copyright Directive is headed to the European Parliament and will be voted on in either March or April.

Nick Heer:

It isn’t clear how non-automated intervention is supposed to sort through the four hundred hours of video uploaded every minute to YouTube and figure out whether the use of any identified copyrighted material constitutes a violation. Perhaps this is a stealthy way of forcing giant platforms to scale back.

Also, contrary to the New York Timesinexplicable framing, this seems like it could be a windfall for Google. As Reynolds says in an accompanying video, it’s likely Google will license YouTube’s Content ID system to third parties.


Turns out that nine representatives who intended to vote for amendments that would have removed Articles 11 and 13 from the Directive voted against those amendments by mistake. Parliament is refusing to honour their intended votes even though they messed with the voting order which caused this confusion and which would have been enough votes to change the result. Disgraceful.

Brent Simmons:

Will it still be legal to distribute an RSS reader in Europe? I honestly don’t know, but would like to know.

Josh Centers:

The European Union has passed the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive, with its controversial Articles 11 and 13 […]. According to the Wikimedia Foundation, Article 11 will require licenses for nearly all online uses of news content, and Article 13 will impose liability on platforms for copyright-infringing content uploaded by users unless they meet a number of stringent requirements. In a statement, YouTube said the final version was an improvement, but the Electronic Frontier Foundation is more alarmed than ever. The EU insists the rules are to protect artists, while critics say they’re a crackdown on user-generated content. Member nations have several years to write the Copyright Directive into their own laws, though they’re sure to be challenged in court.

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Alternative view:

Robert Ashcroft, Chief Executive of PRS for Music, said: “The European Parliament today took a bold step forward to ensure a functioning and sustainable digital single market for creative content. PRS for Music has fought from the beginning for digital services to pay all creators fairly for the content they use. Today’s vote was a ringing endorsement of our work and that of our colleagues in the industry over the last five years."

Apologies for the long post, but here in the UK we're still reaching the culmination of decades of xenophobia, sloth, willful ignorance and political meddling by disaster capitalists and neo-liberal hawks who want to chop Europe into tiny bits for their own personal gain so I don't have much patience with the level of uninformed, lazy commentary in the referenced quotes.

The EU is a fairly transparent organisation and most, if not all, of the processes and information its deliberating on is awailable through its web presence.

Scott's comment is both irrelevant to the topic and rather distasteful. Using someone's misfortune to beat the drum for one's own personal biases and willful ignorance is not acceptable behaviour. The EU hasn't made personal data available to anyone who can guess your password, in this particular case Spotify has. There's nothing in the GDPR prohibiting common-sense security measures this is sloppy work by Spotify.

With regards the rest of the quotes I'd suggest listening to the discussion of this legislation with an MEP about 2/3 of the way through the following episode of Brexit podcast "Remainiacs":

The day-to-day reality of the internet is that the rights of people who create content are largely ignored by consumers and, to a certain extent, suppressed by the large aggregators of data. What the EU is trying to do is balance the rights of people who consume content & the aggregators, against those who create content.

Now the EU may be trying to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut here but what they are attempting is far more nuanced and balanced than anything I see "reported" in the above commentary.

Chris: It's entirely possible to think Brexit is an enormously stupid blunder stoked by fraudulent tabloid stories, and also to think the EU have their heads up their asses about regulating the internet.

Jon H:
The EU is attempting to balance the rights of content creators against those of the consumers. I'm not claiming that the EU necessarily have the correct answers.

However, the EFF & the tech pundity, mostly based outside the EU, don't engage with the process they merely pay lip-service to the idea there should be some consideration for content creators and then whip up an online mob to howl and bay at the MEPs. This is *exactly* how Brexit worked.

It should also be made very clear that this is still in the legislative process and can be ammended and that it's a directive rather than a law so there's still room to manoeuvre at the individual country level.

If you are a European citizen, and you don't like what's in the directive, write an email (don't use a template) to your MEP outlining your issue with the directive. Their email address is available from the EU website and they do pay attention to what people say as long is it is well-mannered and cogent.

The main issue here is that content creators don't need more rights, they need fewer. Current intellectual property rights, like copyright or patent laws, are already hugely biased towards their owners. The idea that we aren't paying enough attention to the requirements of content creators is laughable. The opposite is true, we need better consumer protection - see, for example, Apple's ability to steal movies from consumers who ostensibly bought those movies.

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