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The EU Copyright Directive Will Stifle Online Free Speech And Creativity

The European Parliament has voted in support of the EU’s new Copyright Directive, with 438 MEPs favouring the controversial draft measure, 226 against and thirty-nine abstaining. The proposed, corporate-driven body of rules and regulations, which will apply across the European Union (and beyond), is supposedly intended to reform the issue of intellectual property rights on the internet. However, the suggested legislation includes two articles, 11 and 13, which are widely predicted to extinguish much of the plurality of opinion and creativity that we have known in the online sphere since its inception. As Rhett Jones outlined yesterday for Gizmodo:

“Article 11 is primarily the result of pressure from large press publishers lobbying for legislation to force major platforms like Google and Facebook to pay for the privilege of linking to a news organization.

This piece of the copyright directive has also been called a link tax or snippet tax. It would give copyright protections to the publisher, not the author of the piece, that would prohibit a website from using a quote or headline from an article, or even linking out to it, unless that site pays for a link license.”

Which means, in theory, that any quoted paragraph from any published piece online, like the ones above and below, could be regarded as a contravention of the Copyright Directive. This would require their immediate removal, the payment of a link- or quote-tax or the imposition of a hefty fine by national regulators. This has implications not just for journalism but also for internet-based research publications or online encyclopedias like Wikipedia. The latter relies almost entirely on hyperlinks for sourcing and footnoting its millions of entries and could not hope to pay potentially tens of millions of euros in “fees” to tens of thousands of different publishers and corporations.

“… Article 13 proposes a potentially ruinous system of copyright-protection requirements that would be a disaster for fair use, memes, art, privacy, fandom, and dumbass vlogs. Essentially, Article 13 asks websites to prevent the illegal upload of any copyrighted material. It does so by requiring sites to implement a content ID system that would be similar to the one YouTube spends millions of dollars to develop and maintain.

Stiff penalties could be leveraged against a platform for allowing the upload of copyrighted content even if it’s coming from a user.

Some believe that a centralized database will be created for all the platforms that can’t afford their own in-house system. This would allow copyright holders to submit their claims of ownership and new uploads would be checked against those claims. The problem is that there are no penalties included to prevent someone from making fraudulent copyright claims…”

For smaller websites and blogs hosted on third party services, its possible that those services might be required to develop – or purchase – hugely expensive content filtering systems to search out copyrighted material on their sites and automatically delete it. Killing off commentary and discussions on news events, politics, history and culture, or any subject which links to or quotes from a major online publication. Effectively bringing online commentary and criticism under the control of existing or legacy corporate media.

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5 comments on “The EU Copyright Directive Will Stifle Online Free Speech And Creativity

  1. I can see a vast army of predatory lawyers profiting from this.

    And that we may have to retreat to TOR hidden services in order to blog.

    • ar an sliabh

      That is what it is all about. Most of the people drawing up these messes, either still make or once made their fortunes as solicitors.

  2. One more thing to hold against the EU. It is utterly corrupt and insulated from those it’s meant to represent, run by massive lobbies and unelected technocrats who can impose their particular agendas on 300 million people without proper democratic oversight.
    I’m not likely to vote for the Irexit cretins but any party that takes a strong critical stance on the EU has my vote – it is the single biggest issue of this 21st century.

    • I agree about being critical of the EU and its functions. I have no desire whatsoever to live in a USofE or any type of European federation.

      And yes, the corruption and graft in Brussels/Strasbourg is pretty terrible.

      However, the MEPs are elected. Which means it is our fault, all the citizens of the EU, for not taking the parliament seriously and electing good people to it. Instead of gravy-train or corporatist shills, in far too many cases.

      As for the European Commission, it has less than 32,000 officials serving over 500 million people. The UK alone has over 330,000 officials serving 65 million. And that excludes third-party contractees.

      It doesn’t mean that the EC doesn’t require reform. It certainly does. Urgently. But the numbers are not the issue, as such.

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