After being narrowly voted down last summer, the EU’s Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market will be voted on again this week. Though over 200 edits have been made to the previous version, the dreaded Article 11 (the “link tax”) and Article 13 (requiring sites to scan user uploads for copyright protected content) are still contained within the Directive.
We’ve covered the shortcomings of the Directive previously, but Cory Doctorow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation goes through a laundry list of misleading arguments for the Directive posted on Twitter by the Society of Authors.
The post is worth reading in full, but here are a few of the most important points Doctorow makes for why SOA’s arguments for the Directive being good for content creators are misleading or flat-out wrong.
Niall [author of the tweet thread] writes that Article 11 (“link taxes”) will not stop you from linking to the news. That’s just wrong. The Article calls for new rights for publishers to block even very short quotations of articles and headlines. Those pushing the Article have suggested that quoting a “single word” might be acceptable to them, but not more.
In addition to the vagueness of Article 11’s provisions, there’s clear evidence that even larger firms like Google are unwilling to pay the “link tax.” When a similar measure was passed in Spain, Google just shut down Google News in the country.
Niall says that memes and other forms of parody will not be blocked by Article 13’s filters, because they are exempted from European copyright. That’s doubly wrong.
First, there’s no EU-wide exemption for parody. Under the 2001 Copyright Directive, European countries get to choose zero or more exemptions from a list of twenty permissible ones…Second, even in countries where parody is legal, Article 13’s copyright filters won’t be able to detect it. No one has ever written a software tool that can tell parody from mere reproduction, and such a thing is so far away from our current AI tools as to be science fiction.
YouTube’s ContentID system produces many false positives, as one German music theory professor recently showed.
Finally, Doctorow addresses the argument that strengthening copyright protection will help creators. To the contrary, when only the largest content hosts can afford to comply with these regulations, a lack of competition denies creators important leverage when licensing their works to potential hosts.
Niall says Article 13 is good for creators’ rights. This is wrong. Creators benefit when there is a competitive market for our works. When a few companies monopolise the channels of publication, payment, distribution, and promotion, creators can’t shop around for better deals, because those few companies will all converge on the same rotten policies that benefit them at our expense.
We’ve seen this already: once Youtube became the dominant force in online video, they launched a streaming music service and negotiated licenses from all the major labels. Then Youtube told the independent labels and indie musicians that they would have to agree to the terms set by the majors — or be shut out of Youtube forever. In a market dominated by Youtube, they were forced to take the terms. Without competition, Youtube became just another kind of major label, with the same rotten deals for creators.
The Directive (and copyright law in general, for that matter) is justified as necessary to protect the producers of artistic works from those who “steal” their ideas. Instead the Directive would increase the bargaining power of larger firms at the expense of creators and content hosts.