The EU has tuned out informed warnings from internet pioneers and civil liberties groups and voted to introduce a rigorous copyright law that will make the world wide web “a tool for surveillance and control.” The law has not been agreed yet so there is still some time to fight it, but vote was passed this week making it hard to overturn.
As is oft the case with the EU, the idea seems decent on paper. The new laws would require the likes of Google and Microsoft to install filters so that prevent users from uploading copyrighted materials. It’s like YouTube Content ID, but for the whole internet. The idea behind it is that authors, journalists and artists will get compensated for their work instead of having it spread around the internet for free.
But it you think about it for a second, you realize what an annoying stumbling block it would be and how it would get in the way of freedom of expression. Even memes would be affected. Users would have to take their own meme photos and give permission for others to use them.
Earlier in June, an open letter signed by 70 of the biggest names of the internet, including the creator of the web, Tim Berners-Lee, and Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales, argued that Article 13 would take “an unprecedented step towards the transformation of the internet from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users. The damage that this may do to the free and open internet as we know it is hard to predict, but in our opinions could be substantial.”
As with the GDPR nonsense, the cost of this sweeping, well-meaning but ill-thought out law, will fall heavily on European tech companies since their bigger American cousins can easily afford the costs of compliance.
Another provision of the law, Article 11, would force internet platforms, such as Google, to pay publishers for showing snippets of news stories. This “link tax” would restrain internet users from sharing news stories. Again, nice idea to try to have journalists paid for their content, but let’s think about this for a second before passing an all encompassing law, shall we?
Earlier this year, 169 European academics specializing in intellectual property (a large bunch of people in a very informed position) opposed Article 11 in a letter saying it would “impede the free flow of information that is of vital importance to democracy.” Since then more and more academics have added their names to the letter. They say the proposals are more likely to harm journalists.
There has yet to be a solution that benefits consumers and creators on the internet, but this is certainly not the answer. Spain attempted to do this very thing in 2014. The law was subsequently binned by the Spanish Supreme Court when people realized what a rubbish idea it was. A 2015 study found that the link tax would ultimately cost publishers millions of dollars in lost revenue and that there was no “theoretical or empirical justification” for the scheme.
Sign this petition today and spread it round the internet before spreading links becomes impossible in the EU.