Music Industry's Nonsense 'Myth Busting' About EU's Censorship Machines Is Basically Saying 'Nuh-uh' Repeatedly

from the that's-not-myth-busting dept

A few weeks back we busted the bogus myth busting by the big EU publishers who were trying to fight back against people explaining why the proposed EU Copyright Directive’s Article 11 “link tax” was so damaging. That myth buster was so full of nonsense that it was easy to take apart. However, at least the publishers tried to explain their position, even if they failed miserably. Now, on the other bad part of the Copyright Directive, Article 13 with its mandatory upload filters and censorship machines, the UK’s music collection society PRS for Music (an organization which, among other things, used to call up random small businesses and, if they heard music in the background, demand a license or claim that you need a performance license to play music to your horses) has now come out with a an Article 13 myth buster claiming to counteract what it claims are myths about that part of the Copyright Directive.

This one is pretty easy to debunk as well, but mainly because… PRS doesn’t even bother to make any arguments or cite anything. It basically just makes a claim about what critics are saying and then says “nuh uh” and moves on. Here’s the very first “myth” and PRS’s attempt at myth busting:

FALSE: Article 13 will censor the internet

It will not lead to censorship of the internet. This argument is not based in fact, and easily dispelled by even a superficial review of the proposed directive. It is being propagated by companies which, ultimately, have a vested interest in not sharing their income fairly with creators.

That’s it. No explanation. No, nothing. So, let’s myth bust PRS’s myth busting. It says “a superficial review of the proposed directive” will show that it won’t censor the internet. And, I mean, if you want to be pedantic, of course Article 13 — as a thing itself — won’t be censoring the internet. But that’s not the concern that people have raised. The issue is that Article 13 will force many internet platforms into censoring perfectly legal speech across the internet.

And, because PRS couldn’t bother to do so, I’ll post the actual text of Article 13 that’s so problematic. Here’s straight from the proposal that was approved by the EU Parliament’s JURI Committee a few weeks ago:

In the absence of licensing agreements with rightsholders online content sharing service providers shall take, in cooperation with rightholders, appropriate and proportionate measures leading to the non-availability of copyright or related-right infringing works or other subject-matter on those services, while non-infringing works and other subject matter shall remain available.

And, yes, it includes the trailing point saying that “non-infringing works” can remain available, but does not bother to point out how you can accomplish the first part while allowing the second as well. Basically everyone who understands how basic technology works recognizes that the only way to have measure that block the availability of copyright infringing works is to put in place a mandatory copyright filter. Those are (1) incredibly expensive and (2) incredibly bad at not taking down non-infringing works. YouTube has spent more money than anyone else on its ContentID filter. In 2016, YouTube revealed it spent $60 million building ContentID (and it’s probably significantly more today) and anyone who has any experience with ContentID knows that it’s terrible at taking down non-infringing works. It happens multiple times every day.

And yet PRS and other supporters of Article 13 want to imagine that every other online platform — literally none of which have the resources that Google/YouTube put behind ContentID — will magically build or buy a better filter that won’t censor non-infringing material? What sort of fantasy land are they living in? Because the whole point of Article 13 is to force companies to put in these filters (and to buy licenses), if a platform implements a filter that actually respects fair use and other user rights, you can be damn sure that PRS will be one of the first in lines to sue. I mean, it’s already sued other platforms.

So, yes, Article 13 will lead to widespread censorship and PRS must know this or they’re even more clueless about technology than I had previously thought.

FALSE: Article 13 will restrict internet users

Article 13 imposes no obligation on users. The obligations relate only to platforms and rightsholders.

Actually, Article 13 makes it easier for users to create, post and share content online, as it requires platforms to get licenses and for rightsholders to ensure these licences cover the acts of all individual users acting in a non?commercial capacity. In short, most users no longer need to obtain separate licences.

Again, this is an incredibly intellectually dishonest framing by PRS. It is correct that Article 13’s target is platforms… but it’s the users who use these platforms. And if the requirements of Article 13 — as laid out above — force these platforms to crack down on how users use the platform (which it totally does), then clearly it will restrict internet users. They won’t be able to do the things they want to do on the platforms they have used for years to post their thoughts and writings and memes and music and videos.

FALSE: Article 13 threatens online blogging platforms, code-sharing services and encyclopaedias like Wikipedia

Article 13 would only be applied to certain types of services, specifically those whose main purpose is to make a profit from storing and making available copyright-protected works.

Services operating on a non-commercial basis, or where the presence of copyright works are supplementary, such as blogging sites, are specifically excluded from the requirements to obtain a licence.

Online encyclopaedias and open source software services are also specifically excluded.

Once again, the intellectual dishonesty here is astounding and obnoxious. As PRS knows damn well, the original draft of Article 13 didn’t carve out “online encyclopedias and open source software services.” The issues was that both Wikipedia and Github pointed out how Article 13 would make their sites illegal… and when the technically clueless drafters of Article 13 realized that might be a problem, rather than go back and rethink the entire approach to Article 13, they just wrote a carve-out for each of those sites, and only those sites. There are thousands of sites (many of which were way too small to get anyone’s attention) that will be impacted by Article 13. They didn’t get attention for the problems of Article 13, and no carve-out has been written for them.

Pointing to the two specific carve-outs that were written in response to two specific complaints doesn’t prove that Article 13 won’t threaten various platforms. Also, the definitions of the carve-outs are so specific and so narrowly tailored to Wikipedia and Github as they are today, it could restrict both sites in their ability to grow and launch new services for fear of suddenly being dragged back under Article 13’s draconian requirements.

FALSE: Article 13 will stifle creativity This is an argument which is as old as copyright itself and time and again has proven to be untrue.

In fact, the opposite is true, as the proposed changes will benefit creators of user generated content. Under the current system, it is the user who is required to clear the individual rights for the creation.

Once again, this is a “nuh uh” response, rather than any actual rebuttal. It’s also wrong. The reason why Article 13 will almost certainly stifle creativity is that it will severely limit the ability of thousands of platforms that content creators rely on today to create, to distribute, to promote, and to sell their works. Can Bandcamp operate under Article 13? It’ll be tough and phenomenally expensive. Patreon? Again, incredibly expensive. Kickstarter? Same. Many of these platforms may just leave the EU altogether or put severe restrictions on how the platform is used. That is seriously going to stifle creativity.

Contrary to what the old school recording industry wants you to believe, content creators and the various internet platforms are aligned in their interests. The platforms enable creators to do so much — often without having to go through the old school gatekeepers. So, yes, it will stifle a massive amount of creativity. Of course, it’s the kind of creators that PRS rarely deals with, so why should it care?

FALSE: Article 13 will make memes illegal

Parodies, such as memes, are already covered by exceptions to copyright, and nothing in the proposed Article 13 will allow rightholders to block the use of them.

Parodies are widely available on sites which already deploy content recognition tools and there is no evidence that this process has been detrimental. Currently, it is possible for there to be disputes between uploaders and rightholders as to whether a specific usage is covered by an exception ? but the Copyright Directive will not alter this.

Right. Parodies are an exception to copyright. But nowhere does any of the backers of Article 13 explain how the “appropriate measures” to block any infringing works can magically determine what is, and what is not, parody. Or a meme. Indeed, we’ve already seen over and over again that ContentID — the one system that has had the most time and investment, has no clue how to figure out “exceptions to copyright” (better described as user rights).

The point of the discussion about memes is not that Article 13 “outlaws” memes, but that is the effective result. Because it will require platforms to put in place filters that make any copyright covered work “non-available,” that will naturally sweep up lots of memes, which make use of the work of others. And until we can teach computers to tell what is and what is not fair use or parody or whatever, that’s going to block a lot of memes.

And that’s not even touching on the point that it’s not exactly settled law that “memes are parodies” and are “already covered by exceptions to copyright.” There have been quite a few lawsuits over copyright in memes, and it’s not at all a settled area of law.

FALSE: Article 13 will kill remixes

Services can be licensed to support remixes ? and many already are. Look no further than the recent announcement about Mixcloud?s new licence.

In most cases, mash-ups are covered by existing copyright exceptions (such as parody, criticism, citation). So, they can be created and posted by citizens on the basis of these exceptions.

Notice the nice little twist in the answer here? “Services can be licensed to support remixes.” The complaint that people were making is not about services, but about the fact that the standard way in which remixes are made — whereby amateurs playing around remix stuff for fun and upload it to share… that will no longer be allowed. It will only happen on the few platforms that pay a massive license to allow remixes. And those platforms will have to pay for that license somehow, meaning they’re less likely to allow amateurs and those just messing around to use their services for remixes. It seems quite likely that Article 13 will greatly diminish the number of remixes out in the world.

FALSE: Article 13 will be too expensive for small business and start-ups

Article 13 clearly states that Member States shall ensure that the measures shall be appropriate and proportionate, meaning that the types of measures which are deployed must reflect the specific size and scope of the service. The market already provides a wide range of content identification system at a wide range of prices.

Article 13 could clearly state that every EU citizen gets a baby zebra and it would be just as meaningless. A content upload filter is expensive, period. Again, YouTube spent $60 million building its filter. Supporters of Article 13 often like to point to Audible Magic, who sells upload filters, as proof that it’s not that expensive. But when we spoke to small and medium sized platforms who have discussed using Audible Magic’s filters, it was not at all cheap. One small platform was pitched Audible Magic at around $50k per month. That’s over half a million dollars a year. And this was not a large platform. Half a million dollars would bankrupt this platform. So is PRS saying that if a platform can’t afford that… it doesn’t have to do anything? I highly doubt that, especially given PRS’s litigious past against internet platforms.

FALSE: Article 13 is in breach of fundamental privacy rights

Article 13 specifically states that the measures should not require the identification of individual users and the processing of their personal data and should be in full compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation.

Who do we believe? The company that calls up businesses and demands licensing fees if it hears music playing in the background, or the UN’s special rapporteur on free speech who said that Article 13 is in clear breach of human rights laws? Yeah, I’m going to go with the latter. As for the specific question on privacy, it seems quite likely that Article 13 will lead to many GDPR violations. Because if it’s requiring platforms to take “appropriate measures” to stop users from re-uploading the same works, it’s going to need to keep track of users, and what they upload. That’s going to be a lot of data — and some of it may be quite sensitive.

FALSE: Article 13 will result in a monolithic blocking tool to stop content

At the core of this concept is the idea of a super app, which can identify every piece of copyright content across billions of uploads in every EU country ? and then block it.

Even putting aside the impracticality of such a concept, the argument is flawed for the simple reason that it assumes creators and producers are incentivised to block access to their works.

Centuries of copyright have proven this is not the case. Indeed, one of the core principles of copyright is that it incentivises the licensing of works. Requiring online platforms to obtain a licence will not lead to mass-scale blocking of copyright works online.

So… wait. Now PRS is admitting that content upload filters are “impractical”? So… why is it supporting a law where the only way to satisfy the law is to implement such a filter or to force every internet platform to buy a license…. oohhhhhhh. I see. PRS doesn’t think Article 13 is a problem, since instead of allowing users to upload, PRS is hoping that every platform will just buy a license and only allow uploads from artists it represents.

In other words, PRS is looking forward to the internet being locked down like radio, rather than the internet. It wants a broadcast medium, rather than a communications medium.

As for the claim that creators aren’t incentivized to block works — we’ve heard that claim before. It’s also intellectually dishonest. Yes, most content creators do want their works out there for people to experience. But the copyright holders — often different than the content creators, mind you — seem pretty eager to threaten and sue lots of internet platforms for daring to have any of that content ever available without a license.

So, yes, clearly it will be used for censorship. We have dozens of stories on Techdirt alone about copyright — and filters like ContentID in particular — being used for censorship. And it goes beyond just professional content creators. We’ve seen rich billionaires using copyright to censor critics. We’ve seen Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan use copyright to censor critics.

Anyone who thinks copyright isn’t and won’t be used to censor isn’t paying attention or is incredibly dishonest. So, PRS, which one is it?

The EU Parliament votes on the Copyright Directive later this week. Don’t let PRS for Music and its intellectually dishonest bullshit win out. Tell the EU Parliament to Save Your Internet.

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Companies: prs, prs for music

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Comments on “Music Industry's Nonsense 'Myth Busting' About EU's Censorship Machines Is Basically Saying 'Nuh-uh' Repeatedly”

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Why not, everyone makes money?

Why does it seem like everyone is going about this backwards? Rather than taking down or blocking copyrighted material, find ways to monetize the material with both the copyright holder and the content poster being able to profit.

Here’s a stupid idea (and probably not new either). Make a standard payment (reasonable to us, not them, and low enough to be payable from the scanty advertising rates available and still allow the poster to prosper (think of it as marketing of the copyrighted material rather than theft) maybe even a percentage, a small percentage of the advertising income) available that covers any copyrighted material.

It would be up to the ‘rights societies’ to funnel the money to the correct (provably correct with regular auditing and significant fines for failure to process the money correctly (payable from funds other than those collected from content posters) and no more than a 1% administration fee, and of course return the entire amount of money collected from the content poster, promptly) copyright holder. If a content poster incorrectly determines that they hold the copyright on what they post, then they pay the fee, plus a 1% penalty.

Gary (profile) says:

Re: Why not, everyone makes money?

A small, reasonable payment would have two big problems.
1) The Value Gap: Big Copyright doesn’t want any access to it’s content as low rates because that depresses the value of their material.
2) Everything is copyrighted as soon as it’s published. comprehensive fee would be like the “Pirate Tax” on recordable media – punishing everyone equally. A group tasked with fairly distributing that money would only be able to track the largest works. (If that was possible at all to identify the works and uses in any meaningful way.)

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Why not, everyone makes money?

If that was possible at all to identify the works and uses in any meaningful way.

Yeah, that is exactly what I expect would happen. The agency that was tasked to distribute the money, provably, and fined significantly for failures, would soon go broke. Any other group willing to pick up the task, under the same terms, would fail at it as well.

Then the discussion could be about how to compensate creators rather than rights holders, as it should be.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Why not, everyone makes money?

Knowing how their ilk usually operates it means zero cents to anyone except the big names as they can’t find any usage even when they include full attribution down to the relevant registration document numbers while they pocket the fees for themselves. Meanwhile bird noise and historic speech revenue, or any sequence of three notes found within one of their songs will go to large corporations.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why not, everyone makes money?

The problem with that idea is that it assumes that most of the value of copyrighted material on the Internet is in the material owned by the labels and studios. That which is produced by self publishers, outside of the ‘official platforms’, provides most of the value on the Internet, and those creators will not see a penny of such a charge, because the collection societies do not represent them.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Why not, everyone makes money?

Well, I tried to pose the task as they would not have any upside to not recognizing all creators, even the one song/book/short film creators that have small followings. The significant fines portion, not coming from their collecting (preventing them from penalizing any other rights holder for their failures) would certainly cause them to go bankrupt. A primary feature, in my view.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Why not, everyone makes money?

Administrative costs just in keeping up with who owns what, and how to contact them is likely to more than swallow any tax that can be reasonable levied. Add in mandatory tracking of views and listen so disbursement can be fair, and you have another class of parasite living of of the creative efforts of others.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: From "Advocate" or "Kaisar Betancourt", SIX YEAR GAP ZOMBIE!

Anyone here who thinks Techdirt isn’t astro-turfed, just READ this account’s few pages of history and note the name change for two years, and the SIX YEAR GAP after very first comment.

You can’t explain any other way.

And yet now it’s in for an anti-copyright one-liner? Sheesh.

Anonymous Coward says:

The short version: GOOGLE HATES IT.

Therefore Masnick busts out with another myth that there’s a myth that he’s busting. He’s been imagining that he’s kicking the crap out of imaginary straw-men for 20 years now!

Oh, and he’s recursively deriding the quote-and-contradict method even while he’s doing only that above.

Anonymous Coward says:

don't feel bad...

this is just them “regulating harder” folks.

You created the environment, the beast, and the preference for everyone to run to government to solve their problems. Why are you getting pissed off now that Businesses are beating you at your own silly game?

Money attracts more money, all you lost folks can only attract more lost folks.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: don't feel bad...

You created the environment, the beast, and the preference for everyone to run to government to solve their problems.

Let’s try this again. Every week now I point out to you that this is a lie, and every time I ask you to stop lying.

Last week, incredibly, you did this in a comment where YOU advocated for much greater government regulation of the internet than anything we’ve ever asked for. And again, I asked you to stop lying.

Each time you disappear. Will you do it again?

We have never had a preference for everyone to run to the government to solve their problems. In fact, we take exactly the opposite stance. We believe that allowing for innovation is what tends to make for the better solution, but there are some cases where things have broken down — which EVEN YOU ADMIT in your comments.

So, please, stop lying.

Anonymous Coward says:

thw whole idea is for the Internet to be put under control of the various governments in the various countries. the trouble with trying to do that is it would be mass censorship so the way for it to happen is to make out that the internet is so bad and is supporting all kinds of things that are preventing legitimate businesses from making as much money as those interests SAY they should make and the only way for them to maintain their incomes and business models is via censorship. this has been going on now for many decades prior to the birth of the internet but has intensified since because now, things can get to everyone, everywhere in split seconds. the various governments done want us ordinary people finding out what they are up to that benefits only them and the numerous politicians and friends but also want to stop us from finding out what the fuckers are up to that screws us into the ground, that basically keeps us as slaves to them! once the entertainment industries have achieved their aim of controlling the complete internet, things like torrents will suddenly change from being the worst thing ever into the best thing ever. on top of which, as those industries will be able to dictate who can do what on the internet, for what price, they will have the run of surveillance on everyone, everywhere, governments will be logged into out lives 24/7 and know who is doing what, hearing what, giving out what and then able to arrest us for being subversive because we dont like what they are doing as far as restricting us and our lives are concerned and how we are being ripped off for every aspect of it. remember, the internet is the best distribution medium invented to date. it is going to take something pretty special to beat what is already pretty special and no one who already has wealth and power wants to see those things taken from them or for ordinary people to know what is being done to keep them as ‘ordinary people’ or less!

Rico R (profile) says:

Filters, like creativity, don't exist in a vacuum

PRS, like other legacy players who think Article 13 is a good idea, seems to think that copyright filters are easy to create without any help from outside material. Content ID requires copyright holders to put their copyrighted content into the system, and that’s easy to abuse.

But even still, what they fail to realize, whether the filtering is done by a computer algorithm or by an actual human working for the online platform, the job of stopping copyright infringement doesn’t “magically” disappear; it has shifted from every copyright holder ever to the online platform. That would be like thinking asking someone to cover your shift at work is equivalent of making your job “disappear”! But piracy… right?

Will B. says:

Re: Filters, like creativity, don't exist in a vacuum

Actually, if you read the article, you will see that they don’t fail to realize that at all; in fact, they are counting on that being the case. The goal here is to strong-arm every possible website into paying exorbitant licensing fees out of fear of legal action.

Of course, far more likely is the major players simply deciding it isn’t worth doing business in the EU, and this will end up just the same way trying to charge Google for sending a website more traffic ended up.

Anonymous Coward says:

At the core of this concept is the idea of a super app, which can identify every piece of copyright content across billions of uploads in every EU country – and then block it.
Even putting aside the impracticality of such a concept

Obviously somebody hasn’t been getting the memo from the rest of the music industry. Even if you know it’s impractical you’re not supposed to admit it…

John Smith says:

Re: Re:

Except the internet could easily be rebuilt in ways that make it easy to prevent piracy, defamation, etc. without harming its business model.

Search engines could be replaced by human-run portals that make money for numerous small portals rather than one big search engine, at least until MegaPortal is born as Alphabet gobbles up all the portals…er, never mind.

We’re sheep who like to be led and told what to think and do. Techdirt relieves me of the need to form silly opinions of my own, thus freeing up my time to ponder who will win the heart of the social-climber on the next Bachelorette.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Except the internet could easily be rebuilt in ways that make it easy to prevent piracy, defamation, etc. without harming its business model.

Oh, this ought to be good. Do tell…

Search engines could be replaced by human-run portals that make money for numerous small portals rather than one big search engine

Artisinal search is your answer? Wut?

We’re sheep who like to be led and told what to think and do

That appears to be the impression of the folks you are supporting with your nonsense statements: trying to turn the internet into a broadcast medium, rather than a communications one, in order to tell the people what to think and do… Some of us prefer an open web.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Except the internet could easily be rebuilt in ways that make it easy to prevent piracy, defamation, etc. without harming its business model. “

What is “its business model”? In fact, what is “the internet” in what you’re blathering on about? ISPs? Infrastructure? Web and hosting services? Email and messaging? SaaS? Or are you just talking about the entertainment industry like a fool?

Before you’ve addressed what you’re referring to, you can’t even start to isolate a business model, even if you are stupid enough to think there’s only one?

“Search engines could be replaced by human-run portals”

Wow. I’ve seen some stupid here, but that takes the cake. Your answer is to rebuild search engines in the most expensive and inefficient way possible, and that will somehow “fix” everything? Apparently, your experience with human beings is as wrongheaded as your experience with the internet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The flaw in your reasoning is that a few humans cannot possible keep up with what the rest of humanity is posting to the Internet. As soon as you introduce human curation you also introduce human selection of what should be published. That runs into the limitations of what was published before the Internet existed, and that is 99.9 percent of submissions never get looked at.

Also, human selection does not mean that the best is always selected, and it is more than probable that authors as good as J.K Rowling never got published, heck even J.K almost got lost in the submissions piles. Me, I will take the anarchy that is the Internet, and enjoy those creators that I have found that I like, and not worry that there might be something better out there.

What I do see is the curation based publishers losing out to the platform based enablers of self publishing, and their tide is beginning to ebb fast.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You also have other problems. Personal bias, for example. He mentions defamation, but would a human being who despises Donald Trump take something as defamatory in the same way as one of his voters? Or, would you have a bunch of stuff being let through or unblocked depending on who is on shift that day? There’s a reason why these things go through courts.

The idea that human intervention is the magical cure all for such things only makes sense if you think that it’s possible to curate the internet like a book publisher would have done, which is utter nonsense. Anyone who states such a thing doesn’t have a clue how things work, or is so married to the major entertainment conglomerates that they can’t conceive of anything valuable that’s not being pushed by them being available.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Except for all the times that copyright enforcement themselves have said that policing the web for their own works, be it by their human resources or the algorithms they purchased, is impractical. That’s their response whenever somebody asks them to increase their accuracy. If the owners can’t be fucked to poluce their own shit what hope do the rest of us have?

You’re just angry you can’t sue kids like the RIAA used to with impunity, and judges were less likely to ask irritating questions. You can thank yourselves for shooting yourself in the foot with your aggressive litigious campaigns.

John Smith says:

TRANSLATION: “We built the internet on a legal house of cards that is now crumbling as people abuse Section 230 and infringe on copyright with impunity, while doxing each other and getting each other fired, like that mass shooter who got his stalking victim fired because her boss believed what strangers on the internet told them, and we’re rather keep adding to this house instead of tearing down a nice house we can slip into at any time to break laws. Oh and don’t ask us who benefits from our positions; you’ll never figure it out because you’re too stupid. As this blogger no one outside their little echo-chamber says….”

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