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EU Expected To Pass Censorship Machines, Link Tax On June 20

The European Union and the U.S. Congress are working on reforms to their respective copyright laws, some of which have been deemed too extreme by critics. The EU, for instance, would like force websites to enable “upload filters” and to pay for linking to other websites, while the U.S. Congress would like to extend copyright to 144 years from the already quite long 70 years + life.

As soon as June 20, next week, the European Parliament will vote a draft legislation proposed by the European Commission (EU’s executive body). Critics have attacked the proposal as being quite extreme because it could impact many digital industries too severely.

Censorship Machines (Article 13)

One of the biggest issues with the new EU copyright reform proposal is the Article 13, which mandates that websites that accept user content (anything from videos to online comments) must have an “upload filter” that would block all copyrighted content that's uploaded by users. Critics, such as Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Julia Reda, have also called upload filters “censorship machines.”

Under the censorship machine proposal, companies would be required to get a license for any copyrighted content that is uploaded to their site by its users. In other words, websites would be liable for any content their users upload to the site. It goes without saying that this could significantly hamper innovation on the internet.

For instance, YouTube or a site like it, probably wouldn’t even exist today if the site would have been liable for what users uploaded from day one. Not to mention that at the time the technology to identify potentially copyrighted content was quite rudimentary. Even today, YouTube has its occasional PR scandal over taking down content that shouldn’t have been taken down. Furthermore, those types of takedowns likely happen on a daily basis to many people, but they just don’t get enough media attention to turn into an issue for Google.

Some argue that upload filters wouldn’t be able to recognize “legal uses” of copyrighted content, even if they were 100% effective in identifying whether or not a piece of content is copyrighted or not. In this category would enter parodies, citations, and even internet memes, which typically make references to copyrighted content.

According to Reda, upload filters have already been made illegal by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), which ruled that an obligation to filter all user uploads violates the fundamental rights to privacy, freedom of expression, freedom of information and freedom to conduct a business.

Link Tax (Article 11)

The “link tax” proposal in Article 11 of the copyright reform directive is another idea that’s not just seemingly bad, but it has also failed in countries such as Spain and Germany, where it has already been attempted. Instead of getting companies such as Google or other publishers to pay for the links, or article excerpts and previews, those companies simply stopped linking to content coming from Germany and Spain.

To make matters worse, the EC will allow EU member states to decide for themselves how the link tax should work. This seems contrary to the Commission’s “Digital Single Market” objective, because it will create significant complexity for all online publishers operating in the EU. They will have to abide by all the different copyright rules in the 27 member states. Existing fragmented copyright laws in the EU is one of the reasons why services such as Netflix took so long to arrive in most European countries, too.

Reda believes that a link tax would significantly reduce the number of hyperlinks we see on the web, which means websites will be much less connected to each other. Additionally, the link tax could boost fake news, because real publishers may require others to pay for linking to its content, but fake news operations evidently will not. These groups will want their content to be spread as easily as possible.

Reda also said that the link tax would be in violation of the Berne Convention, which guarantees news websites the right to quote articles and “press summaries.”

These two articles seem to be the most controversial by far, but other issues such as the freedom to take a picture of certain public places in some EU countries isn’t even addressed in the new copyright directive. MEPs are expected to propose their own amendments to the directive in the Parliament.

Impact On Foreign Companies

Article 11 and Article 13 of the new copyright directive look like they would have a much bigger (and probably negative) impact on companies operating in the EU than the GDPR did. The GDPR, although supported by most internet users, has already put many foreign companies on edge. Many either don’t show their content to EU users, have put it behind a paywall, or simply don’t fully or properly company with the law.

If the new copyright directive passes, most American companies may simply decide that serving EU users is no longer worth it, which most likely wouldn’t be positive outcome for the EU as a whole.

If you’re an EU citizen and would like to express your opinion to your MEPs, Mozilla has created a free calling tool, while the EFF and multiple European groups have developed an easy web tool to email your own MEPs.

  • Giroro
    United States Constitution, Article I, section 8, clause 8
    "To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."

    The continual and unlimited extensions to US copyright is a blatant violation of your constitutional rights. Copyright -MUST- be of a limited duration, meaning they must end. Yet no copyright has ever ended, at least not in my lifetime. The time isn't "limited" since they extend the duration every time a copyright is about to expire. Americans have a right to the public domain, and that right needs to be preserved.
    Reply
  • stdragon
    21050913 said:
    United States Constitution, Article I, section 8, clause 8
    "To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."

    The continual and unlimited extensions to US copyright is a blatant violation of your constitutional rights. Copyright -MUST- be of a limited duration, meaning they must end. Yet no copyright has ever ended, at least not in my lifetime. The time isn't "limited" since they extend the duration every time a copyright is about to expire. Americans have a right to the public domain, and that right needs to be preserved.

    Globalism was just the stepping-stone to a full on Neo-feudalism. Power gained is rarely given up!

    They don't call it "royalties" for nothing.
    Reply
  • caustin582
    21050913 said:
    United States Constitution, Article I, section 8, clause 8
    "To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."

    The continual and unlimited extensions to US copyright is a blatant violation of your constitutional rights. Copyright -MUST- be of a limited duration, meaning they must end. Yet no copyright has ever ended, at least not in my lifetime. The time isn't "limited" since they extend the duration every time a copyright is about to expire. Americans have a right to the public domain, and that right needs to be preserved.

    While I agree with the general sentiment of your post, the bolded sentence is an incredibly ignorant statement. Lots of copyrights expire each year.
    Reply
  • hannibal
    Heh life + 144 years Sounds limited time... how about life and 10 years for Copyright. That 70 years is so long that it is huge...
    Soon copyrigts Are valid 1000 year...
    Reply
  • Olle P
    In Sweden (a EU member) we don't have "copyright" per se. We have the "right of origin" for artistic works, which is somewhat different.
    It's tied to the person creating a work (for example take a picture). The ownership of that picture can't be sold or transferred in any way, but you can make an agreement to sell for example distribution rights and such.
    Everything with any form of artistic content is covered by this type of ownership, including this very posting (a work of litterature). My works will automatically become public domain some 70+ years after I die.
    I see no way to practically superwise any form of automatic screening in such a way that every artistic work is treated properly. As noted in previous posts even YouTube can't get it straight without stopping legal use. (I myself got a notice when I in a film used music that had been public domain for about 20 years (recording of Scott Joplin playing his own music), just because some company had also published it on a CD.)
    Reply
  • stdragon
    21052806 said:
    As noted in previous posts even YouTube can't get it straight without stopping legal use

    Therein lies the rub. YouTube didn't want to be just a public forum of video content; they also wanted to censor what was published. By sticking their fingers in that role, they will now be compelled to police all content for copyright infringement.

    Short of any illegal content that forces their hand to take it down, YouTube should have left well enough alone. But they didn't and now they're beholden to nation-states conscripting them into performing an act of labor. It's pure poetic justice if you ask me!
    Reply
  • infowolf1
    get out there and copy everything to external hard drives of gigabyte even terabyte size get stuff off the archive.org site also anything you might need that might get taken down.
    Reply
  • Olle P
    21053854 said:
    ... YouTube... wanted to censor what was published. ...
    I don't think so. The "censorship" is probably more the result of major IP owners like Sony and Disney leaning hard on YouTube to do it.
    Reply