The European Parliament recently approved a directive on copyright. It has received mixed reviews with critics stating that it will cause the death of the internet, while supporters congratulated the successful amendments of the directive which will save the livelihoods of artists.
The Directive change is yet to be processed and it is still unclear how it will turn out to be. It has to go through a series of steps before being finalized as the EU directive and then has to be implemented by law by the member states.
The censorship is broadly being referred as ‘meme ban’ and ‘link tax’ dubbed under Article 13 and Article 11 respectively. Critics have put forth the viewpoint that these Articles mean that social media platforms will have to pay a fees to share the links to a news article and start filtering and removing memes.
What do Article 11 and 13 state that have cause such outrage? Article 11 give publishers the right to ask for paid licenses when their news stories are shared by the online platforms. Article 13 on the other hand states that the online platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat etc) are liable for content uploaded by users that infers copyright. Both Articles attempt to even the playing field at the core level. With big platforms like Facebook and Google make huge amounts of money by providing unlimited access to material by other people, the content makers are not getting a piece of the pie for the content they are making. This is across all genres of music, books, journalism, movies and more.
Not everyone is complaining about the decision for obvious reasons. It has benefitted a lot of internet users and the modern day web has left the companies in Silicon Valley extremely rich while expediting revenue in other industries.
Article 11, the Link Tax
Publishers will be given the right to ask for paid licenses when online platforms share their content. Some key aspects of this article include –
• Although it is primarily directed at Google News, the law still has ambiguity and could have broader applications of the same.
• Some extreme predictions state that the ordinary web users might be stopped from sharing such stories but the text in Article 11 does exempt individuals.
• With the new rights issued to the publishers, the non-commercial users will not be affected for the use of press publications by individual users.
• The ambiguity of the term ‘commercial platform’ has to be yet defined.
• Blogs or RSS feeds that aggregate headlines much like Google news are, or a Facebook Page operated by an individual with large following is yet to be defined as commercial or not.
• If Article 11 is indeed passed, would news sites be charged for cross-linking one another’s coverage?
All the questions remain to be yet answered
Critics have pointed out that similar versions of law were passed across various nations like Spain and Germany where Google reacted by shutting down Google News and dropping sites who would not let their content be shared for free. Traffic to these sites fell upto 15% and this led to the publishers bending the knee and opting for free- sharable content for all.
ARTICLE 13 – The Meme Ban
Being dubbed as the ‘Meme Ban’, some key aspects of Article 13 states that:
• Platforms storing and granting access to large amounts of work and subject related matter uploaded by their users are in store for copyright infringement committed by their users. They can be sued by the users for this
• The platforms and copyright holders have to work together to stop the infringement from happening.
• Critics have taken it as statuary warning; it means uploading filters, forcing social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube to scan every piece of data shared and checking the database for copyright material.
• The technology is just not ripe to swipe away the entire internet’s content for copyright infringement and critics fear a millions of mistakes along the way.
Interestingly Google, Facebook, Amazon, e-bay, Netflix and Wikipedia are all up for everyone’s right to post and against Article 13.
The divisive legislature saw an interesting take of events with 438 voting in favor of the proposed articles, 226 voting against and 39 abstaining from it.
What does the future hold for the Internet Generation?
As for the near-future, there will be no changes in the content distribution. The EU has and its underlying states and legislatures have to sanction the changes before individual countries can state the rules and regulations compiling with the legal notice of the same.
A 3-way European Commission will decide over this process as a final vote call some time in spring 2019. This may be in Early January or late March as and when the council decides. This vote is the last chance of redemption to reject the entire legislation. If the final vote goes through, member states will have 2 years to enforce the directive in their legislature. This could lead to services being stopped altogether in Europe- with big firms deciding to geoblock Europe and make their services non-accessible to the people of Europe.
The fight for Europe’s copyright ban is far from over – this is both good news and bad news. Only time will tell the outcome of the Article 11 and 13.