Despite widespread criticism and warnings, Article 11 and Article 13 of the EU Copyright Directive have inched closer to approval. A vote of the EU parliament – probably at the end of this month or next (March or April 2019) – could start a two year phase in period.
- Article 11, nicknamed the “Link Tax,” initially required internet platforms and publishers – even bloggers – to pay for the use of copyrighted material, however minimally. The language is so broad that it will likely require payments even for hyperlinks and or a very short quote. Article 11 is not an optional provision. The language actually prevents publishers from voluntarily sharing their work, which in turn could damage a form of open source: Creative-Commons sharing of creative works. The Electronic Frontier Foundation strongly opposes it, stating recently:
The final text clarifies that any link that contains more than “single words or very short extracts” from a news story must be licensed, with no exceptions for noncommercial users, nonprofit projects, or even personal websites with ads or other income sources, no matter how small.
- Article 13, nicknamed the “Value Gap,” required internet platforms like Google (e.g. YouTube, Facebook, etc.) to act as enforcers on behalf content creator companies. This would occur via use of things like filters. These companies would likely need to err on the side of caution, thus filtering out even things that didn’t actually violate the Article. Again, the EFF strongly opposes it noting that it will actually help the big established social media platforms crush competition:
Under the final text, any online community, platform or service that has existed for three or more years, or is making €10,000,001/year or more, is responsible for ensuring that no user ever posts anything that infringes copyright, even momentarily. This is impossible, and the closest any service can come to it is spending hundreds of millions of euros to develop automated copyright filters. Those filters will subject all communications of every European to interception and arbitrary censorship if a black-box algorithm decides their text, pictures, sounds or videos are a match for a known copyrighted work. They are a gift to fraudsters and criminals, to say nothing of censors, both government and private.
These filters are unaffordable by all but the largest tech companies, all based in the USA, and the only way Europe’s homegrown tech sector can avoid the obligation to deploy them is to stay under ten million euros per year in revenue, and also shut down after three years.
In many ways, its another instance of old vs young, establishment vs. upstarts, the ruling class vs the masses, and so on. It’s like the fossil fuel industry vs clean tech using political influence and laws to maintain their privilege in a way that they are unable to accomplish via innovation and freedom of choice. Of course, these giant content creators, like Murdoch Media, hoist artists on their flag poles as the justification for their cause. Even there, only the most established, oldest, and riches artists are benefited at the cost of new artists trying to be heard, seen, or otherwise noticed.
It’s also part of the bigger narrative of growing social inequality. The internet revolution from 2000 to the present has been a counter-point to the growing economic divide and dominance by a small elite class of billionaires, even to the extent that some of the revolution’s early beneficiaries have become part of that tyrannical class. The internet revolution allowed start-ups, small businesses, and individuals opportunities for growth via innovation and hard work that simply didn’t exist before. Millions of industrious and creative bloggers and vloggers broke into the closed ranks from which they were previously excluded.
Predictably, and perhaps inevitably, old money / old industry wealth and power have been busy trying to put the genie back in the bottle; to restore their dominance. Articles 11 & 13 represent one of their many efforts. Expect the same effort to come to the U.S. where the battle for net neutrality has already been lost. Make no mistake, this is a battle between the ruling class and the rest of us.