After it failed by a relatively narrow margin this summer, the EU Parliament passed three controversial measures of the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market by a wide margin (438-226 with 39 abstensions). These three provisions, writes Cory Doctorow of EFF, include:
1. Article 13: The Copyright Filters. All but the smallest platforms will have to defensively adopt copyright filters that examine everything you post and censor anything judged to be a copyright infringement.
2. Article 11: Linking to the news using more than one word from the article is prohibited unless you’re using a service that bought a license from the news site you want to link to. News sites can charge anything they want for the right to quote them or refuse to sell altogether, effectively giving them the right to choose who can criticise them. Member states are permitted, but not required, to create exceptions and limitations to reduce the harm done by this new right.
3. Article 12a: No posting your own photos or videos of sports matches. Only the “organisers” of sports matches will have the right to publicly post any kind of record of the match. No posting your selfies, or short videos of exciting plays. You are the audience, your job is to sit where you’re told, passively watch the game, and go home.
The Parliament also rejected two important protections on free expression with respect to copyright, including a measure that would protect uploaded pictures that happen to include pictures of copyrighted materials (such as billboards or t-shirts) and a “user-generated content” exemption to protect “criticism, review, illustration, caricature, parody or pastiche.”
This no-good-very-bad law is based on the faith that the copyright filters required to implement it are effective, which available evidence contradicts. Doctorow blames a sort of “tunnel vision” for leading EU Parliament members to embrace this policy.
[T]here’s the problem that the Internet promotes a kind of tunnel vision in which we assume that the part of the net we interact with is the whole thing. The Internet handles trillions of articles of public communication every day: birthday wishes and messages of condolences, notices of upcoming parties and meetings, political campaigns and love notes. A tiny, sub-one-percent slice of those communications are the kind of copyright infringement that Article 13 seeks to address, but the advocates for Article 13 keep insisting that the “primary purpose” of the platforms is to convey copyrighted works of entertainment…
The Internet is more vast than any of us can know, but that doesn’t mean we should be indifferent to all the other Internet users and the things they lose when we pursue our own narrow goals at the expense of the wider electronic world.
Indeed, there are actual cases of copyright infringement out there, but the EU Parliament cast too wide a net for the benefits of this policy to be worth the cost. It will be interesting to see how the Directive shapes the Internet in the EU, but, unless it is significantly changed, the costs will likely be tremendous to ordinary Internet users and websites large and small that allow user uploads.