Home » Copyright/Intellectual Property, Non-US, PG's Thoughts (such as they are) » European Parliament Approves Catastrophic Copyright Bill That Threatens the Internet

European Parliament Approves Catastrophic Copyright Bill That Threatens the Internet

13 September 2018

From Gizmodo:

Members of the European Parliament voted Wednesday to approve a sweeping overhaul of the EU’s copyright laws that includes two controversial articles that threaten to hand more power to the richest tech companies and generally break the internet.

Overall, MEPs voted in favor of the EU Copyright Directive with a strong majority of 438 to 226. But the process isn’t over. There are still more parliamentary procedures to go through, and individual countries will eventually have to decide how they intend to implement the rules. That’s part of the reason that it’s so difficult to raise public awareness on this issue.

Momentum to oppose the legislation built up earlier this summer, culminating with Parliament deciding to open it up for amendments in July. Many people may have thought the worst was over. It wasn’t—but make no mistake, today’s vote in favor of the directive was extremely consequential.

The biggest issue with this legislation has been Articles 11 and 13. These two provisions have come to be known as the “link tax” and “upload filter” requirements, respectively.

In brief, the link tax is intended to take power back from giant platforms like Google and Facebook by requiring them to pay news outlets for the privilege of linking or quoting articles. But critics say this will mostly harm smaller websites that can’t afford to pay the tax, and the tech giants will easily pay up or just decide not link to news. The latter outcome has already happened when this was tried in Spain. On top of inhibiting the spread of news, the link tax could also make it all but impossible for Wikipedia and other non-profit educational sources to do their work because of their reliance on links, quotes, and citation.

The upload filter section of the legislation demands that all platforms aside from “small/micro enterprises” use a content ID system of some sort to prevent any copyrighted works from being uploaded. Sites will face all copyright liabilities in the event that something makes it past the filter. Because even the best filtering systems, like YouTube’s, are still horrible, critics say that the inevitable outcome is that over-filtering will be the default mode of operation. Remixing, meme-making, sharing of works in the public domain, and other fair use practices would likely all fall victim to platforms that would rather play it safe, just say no to flagged content, and avoid legal battles. Copyright trolls will likely be able to fraudulently claim ownership of intellectual property with little recourse for their victims.

. . . .

Joe McNamee, executive director of digital rights association EDRi, recently told The Verge, “The system is so complicated that last Friday the [European Parliament] legal affairs committee tweeted an incorrect assessment of what’s happening. If they don’t understand the rules, what hope the rest of us?” As we come closer to living parallel lives online and IRL, such sweeping legislation is dangerous to play with.

In a statement sent to Gizmodo, Member of European Parliament Julia Reda said, “Unfortunately, all the concerns by academics, experts and internet users that led to the text being rejected last July still stand.” She said that the EU is relying on “wishful thinking” rather than addressing the clear problems in the directive. Her overall assessment of the vote was blunt: “Today’s decision is a severe blow to the free and open internet. By endorsing new legal and technical limits on what we can post and share online, the European Parliament is putting corporate profits over freedom of speech and abandoning long-standing principles that made the internet what it is today.”

Link to the rest at Gizmodo and thanks to Kat, who points out that this could impact TPV (although it might be a “small/micro enterprise”), for the tip.

Although he claims no deep knowledge of the language of the legislation and its potential impact on TPV or elsewhere, PG says one possibility springs (or limps) to mind would be that it could create a sort of digital Dark Age for websites originating in the EU.

Who is going to quote or take the risk of linking to a European website that may trigger a “link tax” or otherwise expose the site owners to jurisdiction under a complex EU legal regime?

It is not difficult for PG to imagine a new WordPress plugin that automatically screens the IP addresses of linked articles or online visitors to a blog and blocks access to the linked website in general or for visitors with a European IP address. This type of digital censorship system will almost certainly be over-inclusive if the penalties involve exposing a US, Brazilian or Japanese blog to some sort of EU regulatory framework.

If the impact of such an initiative creates one or more digital “no-go” zones, the individuals and organizations in those zones could suffer a much greater harm than any offsetting benefit to the relatively small number of IP rights holders in any nation.

But, as usual, PG could be wrong. As mentioned, he only knows what he reads online about a wide variety of subjects these days.

While he believes himself to be a staunch advocate for the rights of authors and other creators to reasonable legal protections for their works, PG thinks a couple of items about the potential harms of rent-seeking are relevant.

From Wikipedia:

In public choice theory and in economics, rent-seeking involves seeking to increase one’s share of existing wealth without creating new wealth. Rent-seeking results in reduced economic efficiency through poor allocation of resources, reduced actual wealth-creation, lost government revenue, increased income inequality, and (potentially) national decline.

Attempts at capture of regulatory agencies to gain a coercive monopoly can result in advantages for the rent seeker in a market while imposing disadvantages on (incorrupt) competitors. This constitutes one of many possible forms of rent-seeking behavior.

. . . .

Rent-seeking is an attempt to obtain economic rent (i.e., the portion of income paid to a factor of production in excess of what is needed to keep it employed in its current use) by manipulating the social or political environment in which economic activities occur, rather than by creating new wealth. Rent-seeking implies extraction of uncompensated value from others without making any contribution to productivity. The classic example of rent-seeking, according to Robert Shiller, is that of a feudal lord who installs a chain across a river that flows through his land and then hires a collector to charge passing boats a fee (or rent of the section of the river for a few minutes) to lower the chain. There is nothing productive about the chain or the collector. The lord has made no improvements to the river and is not adding value in any way, directly or indirectly, except for himself. All he is doing is finding a way to make money from something that used to be free.

. . . .

Rent-seeking is distinguished in theory from profit-seeking, in which entities seek to extract value by engaging in mutually beneficial transactions. Profit-seeking in this sense is the creation of wealth, while rent-seeking is “profiteering” by using social institutions, such as the power of the state, to redistribute wealth among different groups without creating new wealth.

And some relevant quotes:

I readily acknowledge that it may be difficult to know where to draw the line between ‘corruption’ and ‘rent-seeking behaviour’…. The latter term is generally used to refer to the process by which interest groups adopt (lawful) means to secure competitive advantages from the political process and is a phenomenon widely recognised as influencing law and legal institutions in industrialised societies and is the subject of a huge literature . . . . Rent-seeking may, indeed, impose costs to the economy as high, if not higher, than those arising from corruption (narrowly defined).

~ Anthony Ogus

Time, talent, money, knowledge, and resources that could be used to protect people and cure deadly diseases are instead being wasted, siphoned off by rent-seeking because the government needs to…protect us.

~ Lisa Casanova

As soon as the state takes upon itself the task of planning the whole economic life, the problem of the due station of the different individuals and groups must indeed inevitably become the central political problem. As the coercive power of the state will alone decide who is to have what, the only power worth having will be a share in the exercise of this directing power. There will be no economic or social questions that would not be political questions in the sense that their solution will depend exclusively on who wields the coercive power, on whose are the views that will prevail on all occasions.

~ Friedrich August Hayek

Copyright/Intellectual Property, Non-US, PG's Thoughts (such as they are)

18 Comments to “European Parliament Approves Catastrophic Copyright Bill That Threatens the Internet”

  1. As for the people who support this, like Paul McCartney, for them it’s about the fear of piracy.
    I know so many authors and creators who believe that they would be millionaires if it wasn’t for those darn pirates, while ignoring the 15% they paid their literary agents and all the money that the publishers take.
    So many content creators will be affected from those who write fanfiction, to those who discuss news stories on their own blogs, and all because the legacy entertainment industries in Europe don’t want to compete.

    • Fear of piracy?!
      Sheer stupidity.

      Pirates don’t make money by uploading copyrighted content to public sites. They distribute their content via the darknet or private torrents, which have nothing to do with the sites they are targetting. Nobody goes to fanfic sites for pirated Patterson or Rowling or Allende. Or to youtube for Marvel movies. Or to GitHub for Windows, Office, or other pirated software.

      Not only do they fail to understand the value to *them* of fair use, search citations, and linking, they don’t understand why they are being left behind.

      Retarding digital adoption in their sphere hurts their own economy and citizenry to the benefit of the rest of the planet.

      Just Block’em off and let them stew.
      They might learn something that way.

      • Ol’ Paul may think he’s safe because he’s well known, but unless there’s a reason someone ‘looks’ for him he’ll soon be a lot harder to find.

        And this will ‘kill’ any up and coming star because there won’t be any more ‘look at this!’ cyberstorms as Google/facebook/twitter drop any and all links pointing at the EU.

        Hmm, this will help Amazon as they can simply add a little note:

        ‘By trying to sell your wares through Amazon you give Amazon the right to publish/promote what you are selling in any way Amazon sees fit – and you will cover any fees/fines caused by Amazon publishing/promoting your wares plus ten percent for bookkeeping purposes. Thank you.’

      • “Just Block’em off and let them stew.”

        With results à la Edgar Rice Burroughs’s novel, Beyond Thirty, perhaps? :^)

        The consensus here seems to be that the bureaucrats don’t know what they’re doing, but “inhibiting the spread of news” (as the OP phrased it) might be exactly the effect intended.

        • Somebody else remembers that one!
          Yay!

          American isolationism is deeply rooted. It wouldn’t take much more to bring it further to the fore. For now the orange one is plenty mad at silivalley but he flips at the drop of a hat. It wouldn’t take much to trigger him.

          • Seems he dropped his hat at the Europeans a few months back and we were instructed by very smart people that he wanted a trade war. But now both sides are agreeing to lower tariffs. Lets have more hats. Lots more. Even orange hats.

        • They dont know what they are doing. I mean, this might be the direction they want to take , but they still don’t know what they are doing.

          As has been reported previously here at TPV, they’ve tried the link tax twice, once in Germany, once in Spain. Neither worked out well for anyone. Why not try it again with 27 (please only be 27 and not 28) whole countries. That’ll work out better.

          But the only ones who actually read these bills are the ones against them. The have so much to get through during these sessions (and probably arent actually interested in doing the work) that they rely on aides to tell them how to vote.

          • Estonia is going to be crippled.
            They’ve built a good portion of their rising economy on digital startups.
            Poland and Lithuania can’t be happy.

            But the Brexit crew will be dancing jigs at the bullet they dodged.

  2. I don’t think it will be just WordPress that will be filtering out EU traffic. Google has already shown its response to these kinds of shakedowns.

    If all the affected sites block the EU immediately maybe the residents will recognize the Brusselcrats aren’t looking out for their interests and do something about the now-infamous EU “democracy deficit”.

    Or not.

    As the old PUERTORICAN saying goes: “Less dogs, less fleas.”

    Some customers aren’t worth the problems they bring along.

    • “I don’t think it will be just WordPress that will be filtering out EU traffic. Google has already shown its response to these kinds of shakedowns.”

      Yeah, dropped links!

      And I don’t think microsoft/bling wants to ‘pay’ for their content/links either.

      So, who in the EU has enough money to create a search engine that can afford to pay to link sites? (And how the heck could they make enough money to stay in business? It’s not like people are going to be willing to ‘pay’ for a search that may or may not give them what they want.)

  3. I read the full paper as voted on by the MEPs. ‘Micro’ businesses are exempt – defined by the EU as less than ten paid employees, so at least my author’s blog and scifi zine should wriggle out of this, no matter how the UK ‘Brexits’ from the European Union.

    However, there are so many holes in this law that you could drive a Battlestar through it.

    No definition of ‘newspaper’, for starters, as far as the link tax is concerned.

    Is the Passive Voice a ‘newspaper’?

    Will Passive Guy soon be coming after me Patent Troll-style for linking to his articles on FaceBook?

    You’re only allowed to use a maximum of two matching words from any piece being linked to. Does ‘the’ and ‘a’ count, in which case illegal infraction is guaranteed?

    So many questions.

    No hints on how this unworkable mire is to actually be implemented. Each nation state in the EU will have to come up with its own technology and process solutions – e.g. 28 different versions of how you as a website owner have to caper like a marmoset to this nonsense.

    This is what happens when you have the European Commission and Council – the un-elected European equivalent of Croydon Town Planning Department – issuing legislation & only then giving clueless careerist MEPs a yes/no vote on passing it.

    You can’t hold the Council or Commission’s feet to the fire by voting them out, sadly, to spank them for this lack of understanding of what the internet is and how it works.

    The video/picture copyright uploading part of the new law means that only the likes of Google and FaceBook will be able to afford to develop the monster infraction filters/database/complaint handling systems; thereby guaranteeing their monopoly against any new smaller competitors who may emerge.

    As an author, I’m all for putting money in content creators pockets, the stated aim of this law. Fairly sure in two years’ time I’m not going to be any wealthier for the passage of this idiocy, though.

    • As I don’t think PG is in the EU, I don’t think he’ll bother you. 😉

      (If he was in the EU those new rules would make it much safer for him to close up shop – before a link or one of our comments costs him more than he thinks the site is worth! 😛 )

  4. Ah, the calm before the storm …

    Then an author/singer/publisher/news reporter tries to Google themselves or their latest work – and draw a blank.

    And they check facebook – and the content teasers they posted can’t be seen by others.

    And it starts to sink in that they are back to paying advertisers to try to get the word out – because in the EU others can’t mention you without paying you – and you’re just not worth that much to them …

    I suggest those that like popping corn get theirs quick because there’s going to be a run on the stuff! 😉

  5. This is heading toward social media common carrier status for the EU. It will be great fun watching them square that with eradicating fake news.

    • Or maybe they’ll replace the Internet with the Great Firewall of EUrope + Minitel 2.0.
      Everything taxed, everything regulated, everything frozen.

  6. Another example of the EU doing what it does best – unnecessary, expensive and confusing legislation on a vast scale.

    • Apparently they were also dicussing regulating the length of candle wicks. I am not joking.

      • What is scary is that in no way surprises me, given the EU (and its precursors’) track record.

        Chicken war. Banana war. Subsidy war. Cheese wars.
        Wick wars fits right in.

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