Creators Supporting Link Taxes And Mandatory Filters Are Handing The Internet Over To The Companies They Hate
from the be-careful-what-you-wish-for dept
On Wednesday, the EU Parliament will vote yet again on the EU Copyright Directive and a series of amendments that might fix some of the worst problems of the Directive. MEP Julia Reda has a detailed list of many of the proposals and what they would do to the current proposals on the table. While there are a few attempts to “improve” Articles 11 and 13, many of those improvements are, unfortunately, very limited in nature, and will still create massive problems for the way the internet works.
Unfortunately, as with the situation earlier this year, many groups claiming to represent content creators are arguing in support of the original proposals, and spreading pure FUD about the attempts to fix them. Author Cory Doctrow has a very thorough debunking of each of their talking points. Here’s just a snippet:
Niall says that memes and other forms of parody will not be blocked by Article 13’s filters, because they are exempted from European copyright. That’s doubly wrong.
First, there are no EU-wide copyright exemptions. Under the 2001 Copyright Directive, European countries get to choose zero or more exemptions from a list of permissible ones.
Second, even in countries where parody is legal, Article 13’s copyright filters won’t be able to detect it. No one has ever written a software tool that can tell parody from mere reproduction, and such a thing is so far away from our current AI tools as to be science fiction (as both a science fiction writer and a Visiting Professor of Computer Science at the UK’s Open University, I feel confident in saying this).
But there’s an even larger point that makes it so incredibly frustrating that we’ve been seeing content creators claim to support the existing draft in order to get back at Google and Facebook. And it’s that these rules will lock in the giant internet companies as the only major internet platforms and block out any new upstarts that might compete with them. Cory’s explains it this way:
Niall says Article 13 will not hurt small businesses, only make them pay their share. This is wrong. Article 13’s copyright filters will cost hundreds of millions to build (existing versions of these filters, like Youtube’s Content ID, cost $60,000,000 and only filter a tiny slice of the media Article 13 requires), which will simply destroy small competitors to the US-based multinationals.
What’s more, these filters are notorious for underblocking (missing copyrighted works — a frequent complaint made by the big entertainment companies…when they’re not demanding more of these filters) and overblocking (blocking copyrighted works that have been uploaded by their own creators because they are similar to something claimed by a giant corporation).
Niall says Article 13 is good for creators’ rights. This is wrong. Creators benefit when there is a competitive market for our works. When a few companies monopolise the channels of publication, payment, distribution and promotion, creators can’t shop around for better deals, because those few companies will all converge on the same rotten policies that benefit them at our expense.
We’ve seen this already: once Youtube became the dominant force in online video, they launched a streaming music service and negotiated licenses from all the major labels. Then Youtube told the independent labels and indie musicians that they would have to agree to the terms set by the majors — or be shut out of Youtube forever. In a market dominated by Youtube, they were forced to take the terms. Without competition, Youtube became just another kind of major label, with the same rotten deals for creators.
I’d argue that Cory’s explanation even understates the problem here. The very design of these laws is to limit competition. What is often ignored in these discussions is that the record labels, movie studios and publishers pushing for these laws have always viewed the world in a particular way: where they “negotiate” against other big companies for how to best split up the pie. They don’t want to negotiate with smaller companies. They want just a few companies they can negotiate with — but hopefully they want the law in their favor so they can pressure that small list of companies to do their bidding. They certainly don’t care what’s in the best interests for actual creators, because their entire reason for being has been to take as much money out of actual creators’ pockets and keep it for themselves.
The idea that Article 11 and Article 13 will, in any way, help creators, rather than legacy gatekeepers is laughable. The idea that it will somehow harm the internet giants is equally laughable. They can deal with it. What it will do is take upstart competitors out of the equation entirely and will significantly remove negotiating leverage for creators. Whereas, in the recent past, they didn’t like the deals offered by the major labels, publishers and studios, internet platforms offered creators an excellent alternative, giving them negotiating power. But, with the EU Copyright Directive, those third party platforms will be limited, and thus actual creators will have much less negotiating leverage, many fewer options, and will get pushed back into exploitative contracts with the legacy gatekeepers. It’s unfortunate, then, that at least some have been lead to believe these rules are actually in their interest, when they will do significant harm to them instead.