Home » Copyright/Intellectual Property, Non-US » After the European Parliament Vote: Voices For and Against the EU Copyright Directive

After the European Parliament Vote: Voices For and Against the EU Copyright Directive

13 September 2018

From Publishing Perspectives:

Widely hailed as a move supportive of Europe’s creative industries, the EU copyright directive was the subject of Wednesday’s (September 12) vote by members of the European Parliament. There were 438 ballots for the directive and 226 against, with 39 abstentions.

. . . .

Article 13—one of two contentious areas of the legislation—requires major online tech players (like Facebook and Google) to be sure that the use of content on their platforms is covered by and in compliance with copyright agreements. Article 11 requires those platforms to pay news organizations before linking to their content, sometimes called the “link tax.”

Amendments to Article 13 restricted the scale of its effects to online platforms that hold “significant” levels of content and “promote” them, and it offers an exception for small businesses. Article 11 was amended to permit links that contain individual words from content being linked to, if not full phrases or headlines.

While the book publishing community—which is not the most directly impacted of the creative industries in the short term—has largely welcomed this legislation, there have been nay-sayers, as well, many of whom worry about free speech considerations.

For example, International Publishers Association president Michiel Kolman quickly issued his statement following the vote: This vote recognizes the value of Europe’s creative industries.

“Technology companies and platforms are part of how creative works are distributed but this vote reinforces the underlying principle of copyright that creators and publishers deserve fair financial reward for their work.”

. . . .

But from Vienna, Publishing Perspectives has obtained a cautionary note from publishing consultant Rüdiger Wischenbart, who says, “Hardly any author—or [another] creator—will earn an extra dime from a future ‘ancillary copyright,’ or Leistungsschutzrecht in German, where that concept originated, given the typical author contracts with publishers.

“Second, and just as important, it will create yet another big burden and risk factor to any smaller or nonprofit online content platform that hosts ‘significant’ amounts of content that they necessarily will want to ‘promote’—which is the new formula in the proposal that has been approved by the European Parliament.

“So the debate about fundamental rules of conduct in the digital sphere became, more than ever before, a game limited to the ‘big boys’—big traditional media, big Internet platforms, and big politics. The rest of us may hope for a few softening amendments between now and the final vote in January. Yet we’ll be expected to stay still and wait for such benevolent gestures from behind the sidelines.”

. . . .

In more from the contrarian side, author Cory Doctorow at his BoingBoing.net site, is strongly against the direction these measures are going. His formulation of the problem is that when platforms are required to respond to their content usage in the ways mandated by the parliament members, upload filters will come into routine play. “Everything you post, from short text snippets to stills, audio, video, code, etc.” he writes, “will be surveilled by copyright bots run by the big platforms.

“They’ll compare your posts to databases of ‘copyrighted works’ that will be compiled by allowing anyone to claim copyright on anything, uploading thousands of works at a time. Anything that appears to match the ‘copyright database’ is blocked on sight, and you have to beg the platform’s human moderators to review your case to get your work reinstated.”

And as for those “link taxes,” Doctorow writes, “You can’t link to a news story if your link text includes more than a single word from the article’s headline. The platform you’re using has to buy a license from the news site, and news sites can refuse licenses, giving them the right to choose who can criticize and debate the news. …

“What a disaster for creators. Not only will be we liable to having our independently produced materials arbitrarily censored by overactive filters, but we won’t be able to get them unstuck without the help of big entertainment companies. These companies will not be gentle in wielding their new coercive power over us (entertainment revenues are up, but the share going to creators is down: if you think this is unrelated to the fact that there are only four or five major companies in each entertainment sector, you understand nothing about economics).”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG notes that many of the articles he’s read (and posted) about this topic refer to “creative industries” more than the creators themselves. In most cases, the interests of creative industries and creators are concatenated and assumed to be substantially aligned.

Cory Doctorow’s comments in the OP are refreshing in pointing out that the industries and the creators do not necessarily have the same interests and concerns in the 21st century.

While some creative undertakings (commercial filmmaking, for example) still require groups of people with a variety of skills plus a significant amount of money, a great many creative enterprises – writing, painting/sculpture, musical composition, photography, for example – involve creators operating alone or with a handful of other creators with minimal capital costs.

The ancillary systems for connecting individual creators with those interested in consuming/acquiring their creations have been substantially disrupted in the last couple of decades – Kindle Direct Publishing replaces most of the functions performed by the creative industries of publishing and bookselling with low-cost computerized systems to produce, distribute and sell books.

Low-cost hosting, website construction tools and high-quality digital printing systems that can economically print small numbers or single copies of artwork on demand permit photographers and other visual artists selling reproductions of their works to bypass art galleries, other physical retailers and their associated production and supply chains to offer their works directly to customers.

Increasingly, many “creative industries” are acting like old-fashioned middlemen, focused on artificially preserving their traditional positions with associated power and income in legacy systems that are threatened in an increasingly online and digital world.

Copyright/Intellectual Property, Non-US

10 Comments to “After the European Parliament Vote: Voices For and Against the EU Copyright Directive”

  1. “So the debate about fundamental rules of conduct in the digital sphere became, more than ever before, a game limited to the ‘big boys’—big traditional media, big Internet platforms, and big politics. The rest of us may hope for a few softening amendments between now and the final vote in January. Yet we’ll be expected to stay still and wait for such benevolent gestures from behind the sidelines.”

    The only way I can see them coming to their senses if if the ‘big boys’ give them (and the rest of the EU) a taste of what they’re dishing out – as in giving them at least a day if not a week of ‘This is all you’ll see after this bill kicks in’. Nothing but paid for advertising links from Google or facebook – as non-paid anything they’d have to be paying the source …

    “And as for those “link taxes,” Doctorow writes, “You can’t link to a news story if your link text includes more than a single word from the article’s headline. The platform you’re using has to buy a license from the news site, and news sites can refuse licenses, giving them the right to choose who can criticize and debate the news.””

    I can see someone in the EU trying to google something and only getting: “We’re sorry, nothing in the EU is worth the cost imposed by the EU to keep track of it. We could tell you who to contact to get this corrected, but we don’t wish to pay them either. Have a nice day! 😉 ”

    Having just jumped off a cliff is not the time to realize you may have grabbed your dirty laundry bag and not your parachute …

  2. “Creative industries” had better take note that technology development isn’t stopping any time soon, short of an asteroid impact, so they need to consider that they can and will be replaced.

    Even hollywood. Consider this the proof of principle:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr._Horrible%27s_Sing-Along_Blog

    High quality video cameras keep getting cheaper, professional grade computers get more and more powerful and software gets more and more sophisticated.

    And, most importantly, access to the paying customer keeps getting more and more plentiful. Actors, writers, and directors have less need of the gatekeeping money guys than ever so expect more and more labors of love emerging in the years to come.

    Just like in the narrative text world, niches will be served. There’s under-served markets just waiting for the right products.

  3. Periodical reminder that Porter Anderson and Publishing Perspectives are the literal mouthpieces of the Frankfurt Book Fair and thus the trad industry. PP is their rag.

  4. publishing consultant Rüdiger Wischenbart, who says, “Hardly any author—or [another] creator—will earn an extra dime from a future ‘ancillary copyright,’ or Leistungsschutzrecht in German, where that concept originated, given the typical author contracts with publishers.

    “Second, and just as important, it will create yet another big burden and risk factor to any smaller or nonprofit online content platform that hosts ‘significant’ amounts of content that they necessarily will want to ‘promote’—which is the new formula in the proposal that has been approved by the European Parliament.

    “So the debate about fundamental rules of conduct in the digital sphere became, more than ever before, a game limited to the ‘big boys’—big traditional media, big Internet platforms, and big politics. The rest of us may hope for a few softening amendments between now and the final vote in January. Yet we’ll be expected to stay still and wait for such benevolent gestures from behind the sidelines.”

    ———

    It’s worse, the middlemen themselves will get next to nothing. If that.

    See, these folks just created a reverse auction environment!

    After all, there are many content platforms scattered across the EU but only two or three really significant search engines and news aggregators of significance.

    So Google can say: “Let’s Limbo! I will only link to one German news source. If any. Who wants our business?”

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reverse_auction

    Or maybe they’ll just pay somebody like Reuters or BBC, headquartered outside the EU and ignore all the continental small fry who will end up even smaller.

    So many ways this will blow up and none that will end up with any net return on the bribe money.

    • “So Google can say: “Let’s Limbo! I will only link to one German news source. If any. Who wants our business?””

      Or Google will ‘apply’ to link, asking the prices.

      On receiving a negative reply, Google says: “No problems – no links for you!”

      On receiving a positive reply, Google says: “No problems – it will only cost you your fees plus 90% for us to use your links in the EU. If this is unacceptable then there will be no links and no fees.”

      In either case Google will not be paying to link their content – other than as paid advertising …

      (I hope everyone has ordered their popcorn! 😉 )

      • I was thinking something along those lines.
        “We’ll pay you a buck for every link we use and you pay us a penny for every visitor we send your way.”
        🙂

        • But only on sites with a history of a lot of traffic. 😉

          But then the sites will whine that Google favoring one site over another, the fee + 90% (or a straight up ‘paperwork fee/fine’) would give a more level playing field. That or no ‘linking’, just paid advertising.

          Oh, and we’re forgetting one very important fact. What are the EU sites going to have to make them worth linking in the first place? Most of them (like news sites) get their data from others – which ‘they’ will now have to pay for. Thing of any of the news channels here in the states – if the locals had to pay for national news feeds and the national had to pay each local they got a story from? (Hmm if twitter had to pay for each twit for every tweet we may never hear of/from trump again … maybe the EU has a good idea after all? — Just kidding because it hurts far more than it could ever help.)

          Any way you try to twist it, the EU sites are so screwed.

          • But the “colossal” tech companies will have a whole new line of business hosting and filtering EU websites.

            • Or they might not – just to force the EU to admit they’re wrong and kill the bills.

              Google isn’t going to pay to link – they don’t dare let that door open even a crack. And even if they get the links for ‘free’, the cost of the record keeping might cost them more than the link was ever worth.

              And just how much would they have to charge to host a site – having to watch every single thing on it to ensure that it doesn’t break some law somewhere?

              Let’s pretend TPV was in the EU. PG can’t sit there watching the site every minute, he has other things that need doing too. Which means he doesn’t dare let comments load while he’s not watching – there’s heavy fines for him not taking down something ‘bad’ in less than an hour of being told (and the poor guy has to sleep sometime! 😉 )

              So all comments would have to wait for him to check to see if they might trigger some EU yahoo and get him yelled at.

              If ‘I’ was in the EU I’d be getting a non-EU site set up so I could continue doing business, hmm, I wonder how many EU sites are looking for overseas partners? 😉

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