Activists, start-ups, and businesses alike warn that a new copyright proposals out of the European Union have the potential to cause significant damage to the european economy and even the culture itself.
The EU proposal in question is an attempt to shore up existing problems with EU copyright law. But the poorly crafted nature of the effort could have a profoundly negative impact across the single market and create huge barriers to entry.
For example, Article 13 of the plan declares that any website that lets users upload text, sounds, images, code, or other copyrighted works for public consumption will need to employ automated systems that filter these submissions against a database of copyrighted works. The complexity and overhead of this cannot be understated, but even more disturbingly, this has echoes of the type of censorship that “the great firewall of china” employs, and even that requires the employment of thousands of censors.
Due to the vaguely defined nature, this would also result in all news websites, blogs, and a multitude of others that have comments sections, to disable the ability for people to submit comments, which would stifle freedom of speech in a huge way. It would also effectively shut down any public feedback initiatives that are internet based.
Those effects aren’t even considering what happens when those filters routinely don’t work very well, they tend to result in rampant collateral damage as legitimate content gets caught in the poorly-crafted automated dragnet. Creating an automated censorship regime appears to only be hamper criticism as actual loss of revenue grater than the value of a single meal for copywritten images has not been demonstrated. This also does not prevent people from claiming copywrite over public works. Which gets pushed to the bottom of the pile and actually harms the culture writ large. If even google cannot prevent this type of abuse, what chance to smaller companies operating in the EU have ? Article 13 world simply result in EU countries becoming an internet backwater, unable to even offer criticism of the rising far right, since their logos would be copywritten. Ultimately it is the citizens that suffer, not only starved for information, but unable to reproduce even their own culture. The farce that culture would become would be little more than a foil for profit seeking interests, determined to exercise absolute control for the whims of a few. I can think of no method to more effectivly starve self-expression.
Article 11 has similar connotation, but even more insidious, Links are allowed to contain “individual words” of the article, meaning 2 adjacent words are not allowed. How many sentences in the English language often have similar words next to each other such as “even though” “and then” or even news where someone repeats what an official has said. It would render all responses to any public figure to be silenced. How could anyone expect to write about anything if most common sentences and grammar become copywritten ? I can think of no quicker way to silence all mentions of “climate change” then to make all online speech about it require a lengthy licensing process. There have been mentions that there would be “Exception for “very short excerpts” and factual information” Apparently only 1 news agency at a time would be allowed to report on the weather. Heaven forbid the same weather ever happens twice. which would experience the same issues of abuse as listed above.
Once again, not only does the technical feasibility of trying to scan every piece of content posted online in the EU stretch far beyond reason, and the vast expense is far beyond what all publishers combined could claim in lost revenue over the last 20 years combined. What reason is there to create a system that amounts to nothing less than pre-emptive censorship with EU citizens footing the bill if the corporations, many of which are not EU citizens, that have these issues cannot be bothered to go through the existing processes? More importantly however there needs to be a clarification that links aren’t copyright infringement, how is anyone supposed to learn about anything if no one is allowed to link to anything? As if publishers traffic levels aren’t low enough already. This seems to be an attempt to prevent information from spreading. What happens if there is some disaster? Or outbreak of disease? or even food poisoning? Ostensibly it would mean that the public would be woefully under informed about even the most basic aspects of civic life while publishers fight each other over who gets to inform the public, worse still it vastly limits the audience exposure. In an effort to maximize revenues they simply fail to understand how much revenue they get from random twitter posts with cause an influx in traffic to their websites. This is so short sighted that the greed which unpins it, completely fails to comprehend the benefits they receive and as a result, they shoot themselves in the foot.
In Article 6, the Legal Affairs Committee’s has made a change which currently says that you cannot use a copy made under one copyright exception for another copyright exception. For example, university libraries would not be allowed to use copies of books initially made for preservation purposes for education. Other than the difficulty in proving such an activity occurred it seems mostly to be an attempt to complicate the process of transferring materials that are excepted, to third parties. It would also turn both students and teachers into criminals for creating photocopies of books as part of classroom materials. Books which they have already purchased. This seems to be little more than an attempt to double charge or more for existing licensing which seems likely to be used as a tool for harassment and little else.