Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

E.U. Votes to Pass Copyright Directive Inclusive of Articles With Potentially Damaging Effects for the Web

Mike Masnick, Techdirt:

Well, it was a nice run while it lasted, but the EU Parliament has just put an end to the open internet. By the incredibly thin margin of just five votes, the Parliament voted against any amendments to the proposal — which was a necessary step to fixing or deleting Articles 11 and 13. After that, they voted to approve the EU Copyright Directive, including the terrible versions of both Article 11 and 13. This is an inauspicious day and one that the EU will almost certainly come to regret. While we now need to see how each of the member states will implement the actual laws put forth in the Directive (meaning the damage in some states may be more mitigatable than in others), on the whole the EU Copyright Directive requires laws that effectively end the open internet as an open communications medium. Sites that previously allowed content creators to freely publish content will now be forced to make impossible choices: license all content (which is literally impossible), filter all content (expensive and failure-prone), or shut down. Sites that used to send traffic to news sources may now need to reconsider, as doing so will inexplicably require payment.

Masnick is not alone in painting a dark picture of the web of the future based on these two articles in the Directive, but it doesn’t appear to be completely dire. For example, merely linking to a news publication doesn’t appear to require any sort of payment — that’s the second subparagraph in the Article (PDF). It also seems to allow ample room for criticism, commentary, educational use, and so forth. And, as far as Article 13 is concerned, Matt Reynolds of Wired UK wrote a great guide clearing it up.

Even so, it seems like the admirable aims of the Directive run into obvious real-world problems. For example, as Reynolds reports:

Mary Honeyball, a British Labour MEP who supports Article 13, says. “Some [online platforms] fear that Article 13 requires the implementation of automated ‘upload filters’. However, Article 13 makes no such requirement and in fact states that automated blocking should be avoided,” Honeyball says in a statement. “The text only requires that [platforms] either license or remove copyrighted material.”

It isn’t clear how non-automated intervention is supposed to sort through the four hundred hours of video uploaded every minute to YouTube and figure out whether the use of any identified copyrighted material constitutes a violation. Perhaps this is a stealthy way of forcing giant platforms to scale back.

Also, contrary to the New York Timesinexplicable framing, this seems like it could be a windfall for Google. As Reynolds says in an accompanying video, it’s likely Google will license YouTube’s Content ID system to third parties.

I don’t know what the next two years’ worth of legislation in E.U. member countries will look like, and I don’t know what the web will look like afterwards. Contrary to those believing that this is a death knell for the open web, I’m not sure it will be massively different. But this Directive also seems like a highly restrictive and implausible attempt to rewind the clock on the web. I doubt it will accomplish its intentions, but I also doubt that Europeans will be browsing an entirely locked-down web in 2021.

Update: Turns out that nine representatives who intended to vote for amendments that would have removed Articles 11 and 13 from the Directive voted against those amendments by mistake. Parliament is refusing to honour their intended votes even though they messed with the voting order which caused this confusion and which would have been enough votes to change the result. Disgraceful.

Update: Brent Simmons:

Will it still be legal to distribute an RSS reader in Europe? I honestly don’t know, but would like to know.

I want to know this, too. My admittedly amateur read is that an RSS reader would be treated as similar to a web browser, so long as it does not rehost materials.