On June 20th, the EU’s Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) voted in favor of the Copyright Directive. The directive includes two highly controversial provisions. These are Article 11, a “link tax,” which would force online platforms like Facebook and Google to buy licenses from media companies before linking to their stories; and Article 13, an “upload filter,” which would require that everything uploaded online in the EU is checked for copyright infringement. (Think of it like YouTube’s Content ID system but for the whole internet.)
In 2014, Spain attempted this and it resulted in the temporary closure of Google News Spain. According to a study in 2015, a link tax would ultimately cost publishers millions of dollars in lost revenue. Taxing companies to share and link to news articles would be a deterrent to sharing and linking to stories. Executives at Facebook and Google stated that they would not pay for a tax to share a link.
Article 13’s “upload filter” is perhaps the most insidious. It would place content-filtering obligations on platforms, which encourages them to block as much as possible, and it gives them little incentive to let innocent content through. FOSTA in the United States is a good example of how these incentives work. After the passage of the law, which was intended to combat sex trafficking on the internet, Craigslist dropped it’s casual hook-up’s classified ads, Back Pages dropped the escort pages, and whatever you do don’t ask me who I know this.
Many speculate that Copyright Directive is being pushed by European Parliament because they want more control by turning the internet into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users. I worry about this. When Google is forced to filter for certain words, prevent certain phrases from being searched, and screen for content then how is it different from the China’s firewall? Article 13 sounds like a fascists wet dream come to life. To have the power to survey everything in a way that dwarfs the Patriot Act would be a huge low to freedom, and would be the end of the internet.
Both Article 11 and Article 13 were approved by the JURI committee this morning but won’t become official legislation until passed by the entire European Parliament in a plenary vote. There’s no definite timetable for when such a vote might take place, but it would likely happen sometime between December of this year and the first half of 2019.
Chances are you probably know nothing about this. The mainstream media in the UK and US aren’t touching this subject, which is why Deadman’s Tome is picking up the slack.