Following the passage of the E.U.’s Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market last summer, E.U. regulators and member states are struggling to make last-minute fixes at the behest of representatives from member states and industry representatives. These negotiations are turning the implementation of a repressive and regressive regulation into a chaotic mess.
EFF’s Cory Doctorow has a writeup that does an excellent job explaining the technical problems with the directive. In short, the demands placed on websites for them to be compliant are either completely unworkable, a danger to a free and open internet, or both.
For those looking for a rent-seeking angle to this regulation, Doctorow’s analysis of who is coming to the table and asking for what offers some insights:
Even supporters and notional beneficiaries have now grown critical of the proposals. An open letter signed by major rightsholder groups, including movie companies and sports leagues, asks the EU to exempt their products from Article 13 altogether [mandatory content filters similar to YouTube’s ContentID system, which is prone to false-positives in addition to being prohibitively expensive for many sites], and suggest it should only apply to the music industry’s works. Meanwhile, the music industry wrote their own open letter, saying that he latest proposed text on Article 13 won’t solve their problems…
The collective opposition is unsurprising. Months of closed-door negotiations and corporate lobbying have actually made the proposals worse: even less coherent, and more riddled with irreconcilable contradictions.
Regulation for thee but not for me. Though copyright holders generally like strong IP rights so they can better collect rents, there seems to be an interesting reversal going on. These firms likely recognize that the character of this specific regulation, which would make it extraordinarily difficult to share protected content, will likely harm their bottom line by making their content not accessible enough.
And, of course, Doctorow correctly identifies the massive advantage this regulation would give already-established tech companies over any potential competition from overseas.
What is worse, the Directive will only reinforce the power of US Big Tech companies by inhibiting the emergence of European competitors. That’s because only the biggest tech companies have the millions of euros it will cost to deploy the filters Article 13 requires.
Even if you think that copyright and other IP protections should be expanded, the disaster that negotiations over the Directive have become should give you pause. The onerous rules it would impose have led to rent seekers coming out of the woodwork to carve out their own special exemptions. Regulations, be they strict or lenient, should be applied consistently, and so far the Directive has failed this test.