Copyright Directive

After months of talks, votes, consolations, protests and petitions, the European Union finally did it. The EU Parliament passed one of its most “controversial” pieces of legislation in its history.

Inventor of the “World Wide Web” Tim Berners-Lee, co-founder of Wikipedia Jimmy Wales and 70 other Internet pioneers signed an open letter to the president of the European Parliament warning that it was about to pass a directive that was “an imminent threat to the future” of the Internet. Over 5 million people signed’s largest-ever petition to try to get the EU to reconsider.

Hundreds of thousands turned out to protest. None of that mattered. The European Parliament passed its new “Copyright Directive”, its largest-ever attack on a “free and open” Internet.

The controversy centers around two “articles of the directive,” both of which are far more important than they at first seem. Protecting copyright holders is sensible. But the EU’s directive paves the way for what “European Digital Rights” calls a censorship machine.”

Article 11 of the EU Copyright Directive is the “link tax.” Individuals and organizations who post information to websites commonly quote other publications. Many bloggers often quote a “few sentences” from an outstanding article, and give readers a “link” to the full article. As a blogger, I love it when others “link” to my articles. It means a wider audience “comes and reads” my work.

The EU wants to “put a stop” to this. Anyone quoting beyond just a few words will have to “pay a fee” to the creator. The result? Fewer people “share” articles, and the creator ends up “worse” off.

Germany and Spain both tried this, and it proved “unworkable.” Experts predict the directive will lead to the Internet becoming more “dominated” by a small number of “giant” companies. It is just too time consuming to reach “agreements” with lots of small news sites to allow you to “quote” them. It is easier for a few big media companies to “strike” agreements with each other. This leaves smaller sites to “die” without the oxygen of publicity.

Worse, Article 11 can be used to clamp down on “criticism.” For example, someone can write an article “exposing” a story that told a bunch of “ridiculous” lies. Under Article 11, the Publisher could “forbid” you from quoting its content. It’s pretty hard to “prove” someone is lying if you can’t “quote” what he said.

Perhaps even more concerning is Article 13. This applies to sites like YouTube, Facebook and any others that host material made by the public. Currently you can post just about “anything” to YouTube. If there’s a “copyright” violation, the copyright owner will “flag” the video, and YouTube will “take” it down.

The system is pretty “clunky.” Most of the scanning for copyright “violation” is done by computer programs. If you “upload” content to YouTube regularly, you’re “familiar” with the pattern. A program will flag your content as “copyrighted,” and YouTube will automatically “take” it down. Then you have to get together a “bunch of paperwork” to show YouTube that your content is actually “not” copyrighted, or that you have the “rights” to use it.

The EU wants to make it even more “restrictive.” Everything that goes up on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc will have to be checked for copyright violations “before” it is posted. Around 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Over the same time period, Facebook users upload 240,000 pictures, like 3.1 million posts, and send 31 million messages. Scanning all of that for copyrighted content is “humanly” impossible, so it must be “delegated” to a computer program.

Again, this isn’t so “bad” for Internet giants. Google and Facebook can afford to spend millions creating “contact filters.” YouTube has already poured $100 million into its “ContentID” system for helping “track down” copyrighted material. But smaller websites? Not a chance. They’ll probably end up “paying” Google to do the filtering for them.

Meanwhile, websites will face big “penalties” if they fail to block copyrighted content, but small or no penalties if they “mistakenly” block content that should be allowed. They will err on the side of caution. Expect “parodies, memes and other innocent” content to be blocked.

Europe is pushing the world toward an “Internet” where all content is filtered before it’s uploaded. At first, that filtering may just be for “copyrighted” material. But once the filters are in place, how long before the EU “demands” the filters be tweaked to filter out “hate speech” and any other speech it doesn’t like? And who trusts the EU to “decide” what should and should not be allowed?

This is why Tim Berners-Lee and his fellows warned that “Article 13 takes an unprecedented step towards the transformation of the Internet from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users.” Diego Naranjo, senior policy adviser at European Digital Rights, warned that “Article 13 of the Directive sets a dangerous precedent for Internet filters and automated censorship mechanisms—in the EU and across the globe.”

This is not about “copyright” protection. EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas tweeted that with this rule, the EU “takes back control” of the Internet. That’s what this is all about: “control.” The “back” is wrong—the EU never really controlled the Internet, but it has always wanted to.

Control is in the EU’s “makeup.” Part of the reason Britain wants “out of the EU” is because of the way the EU pass laws “regulating” every walk of life.

Regardless of how far this law goes, we’ve seen what EU leaders want. “They want to pull out all the stops, ignore all the experts and massive public opinion, in order to gain more control.”

With the new copyright directive, the EU is setting up the infrastructure to control what people say online, and shut down its critics. “The Copyright Directive will create two Internets,” wrote Matthew Lesh. “The first, a heavily censored version for European users, including filters to prevent you from uploading content. The second, a free internet where creativity is encouraged, for everyone else.”

The EU right now doesn’t feel like an autocratic, “imperialist” power. It doesn’t feel like an “invasion” is underway. When one sees Jean-Claude Juncker “shuffling” behind the lectern, one isn’t exactly “paralyzed” with fear. The EU looks and behaves like a “sprawling, unwieldy, bureaucratic mess.” And it is, at least in many respects. But it is this “perception” that makes the EU so “dangerous;” it is so easy to “misread and underestimate.”

Europe’s “power and influence” is growing. For now, it’s not using “tanks and aircraft carriers.” Instead, it’s growing its power by “creating” long documents filled with complex, “boring” legislation.

It’s called “regulatory imperialism”, and Europe has “mastered” it.

European Parliament Passes Widely Criticized Copyright Directive

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