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.
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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.”
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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.”
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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.