The hotly debated new copyright law for the EU is expected to get a final vote this March – and its Article 13 restrictions on protected content has set off the largest public petitions ever. As detractors of the new law are saying – It’s only the fate of the internet at stake.
Let’s filter that
The new legislation purportedly aims to correct the imbalance between highly profitable online platforms such as YouTube and Facebook and the struggling publishing industry with unemployed journalists. The basic story line is that these platforms are siphoning off the profits, leaving publishers and content creators the crumbs.
Article 13 aims to solve this by mandating that these platforms have the responsibility of preemptively getting licenses for uploaded material, platforms will have to make some serious efforts to prevent copyrighted material from being uploaded with technologies such as filters, and the platforms will be directly liable for the not-so-legal uploaded content. And when all this is done, both publishers and artists will be happy and all will be wonderful. But as Julia Reda, a Euro MP stated on her blog: “It’s an impossible feat.”
This ain’t no coffee filter
Unlike coffee grounds, filtering out protected content on the internet is a tricky and expensive business. Alphabet – the company formerly known as Google – has reportedly spent $100 million on its “Content ID” filter for YouTube. There are lots of issues with it including false claims, the system making “false positive” mistakes, and difficulties in registering the subtle differences between infringement and “fair dealing” parodies and/or commentary. And, this is only video — there is a lot of other trademarked content Article 13 is after.
Article 13 does give smaller platforms a bit of breathing room. Until the new company celebrates its third birthday or earns 10 million Euro – it is off the hook – barely. Cross these limits and a filter will need to be in place. Is that enough space for newbie companies to grow or a gimmick to distract opponents of the new legislation?
Whose got a filter in their back pocket?
While the new legislation has been pitched as a way to restrict the power of the technology giants, it’s actually handing them a blank check to make money as the internet is reforged into a copyright-compliant area. After all, it is Facebook and Alphabet with the deep pockets and deep experience in implementing content filters. This is a great money-making opportunity for technology companies – and who knows what it will do for the artists.
Elections make it a time to protest
The coming May elections for the European Parliament might be the best help yet to stop Article 13. The logic is that the revised copyright law has already set records in terms of citizen participation, handily beating previous attempts on other issues such as Daylight Savings Time. People are involved – and they are generally negative about the proposed changes. If a MP votes for the legislation in March, they run the risk being a lighting rod for voter discontent two months later in the election. In addition, organizations such as the EFF have also made it easier with online petitions for people to register their feelings with elected representatives.