There Was Heavy Tech Lobbying On Article 13… From The Company Hoping To Sell Everyone The Filters

from the lobbyist-influence dept

One of the key themes we’ve been hearing for years now concerning the EU’s awful Article 13 section of the EU Copyright Directive, was that no one should pay any attention at all to the critics of Article 13, because it’s all just “big tech lobbying” behind any of the criticism. In the past, we highlighted a few of these claims:

Here’s Geoff Taylor from BPI:

The US tech lobby has been using its enormous reach and resources to try to whip up an alarmist campaign…

And here’s Richard Ashcroft from PRS for Music:

the Internet giants… have whipped up a social media storm of misinformation about the proposed changes in order to preserve their current advantage.

And how about UK Music’s Michael Dugher who really wants to blame Google for everything:

Some absolute rubbish has been written about the EU?s proposed changes on copyright rules.

Amongst the ludicrous suggestions from the likes of Google is the claim that the shake-up will mean the end of memes, remixes and other user-generated content. Some have said that it will mean ?censorship? and even wildly predicted it will result in the ?death of the internet?.

This is desperate and dishonest. Whilst some of the myths are repeated by people who remain blissfully untroubled by the technical but crucially important details of the proposed EU changes, in the worst cases this propaganda is being cynically pedalled by big tech like Google?s YouTube with a huge vested and multi-million-pound interest in this battle.

However, as we wrote about back in December, an analysis that looked at the actual lobbying efforts around copyright in the EU found that it was done overwhelmingly by the legacy copyright industries, and only sparingly by the tech companies. In that post, I went through a spreadsheet looking at the lobbying of the EU Commission, and found that over 80% of the meetings were from the entertainment industry.

However, as is coming out now, there was definitely one “tech” company that was one of the most aggressive lobbyists on Article 13. However, it was lobbying in favor of it, and that’s because it knew that Article 13 would lead to an artificial, but highly inflated demand for internet filters. And that’s the company known for building the filtering technology behind nearly all of the non-ContentID copyright filters: Audible Magic.

Law professor Annemarie Bridy recently posted a detailed Twitter thread of Audible Magic’s lobbying activities regarding Article 13. It’s easy to see why the company did so, because the law, if put into effect, would be a huge, huge benefit for Audible Magic, more or less forcing nearly every internet platform of a decent size to have to purchase Audible Magic’s technology. Indeed, in the run-up to Article 13, we heard directly from policymakers in the EU who would point to Audible Magic as “proof” that filtering technology was readily available for not much money and that it worked. Neither of these claims are accurate.

On the fees, Audible Magic has a public pricing page that has been frequently pointed out by supporters of Article 13, often with the claim “fees start as low as $1,000 per month.” But… that’s not accurate. The $1,000 only applies to “on device” databases. Hosted databases start at $2,000 per month, which is already double that… and the $2,000 per month only covers very low levels of usage. Indeed, the usage rates are so low that it’s unlikely to think that any company that used Audible Magic at that rate would be making very much (if any) money at all — meaning that relatively speaking, Audible Magic would be a huge margin killer. And the rates quickly go up from there. Indeed, on Audible Magic’s pricing page, as soon as you get to a level that one might consider “sustainable” for a business, the prices become “contact us.”

A few years back I spoke with one mid-sized streaming company, who told me Audible Magic was quoting them fees that were between $30,000 to $60,000 per month. An academic paper from 2017 found pricing to be slightly lower than what I had heard, but still quite expensive:

Commercial fingerprinting and filtering services, such as Audible Magic and Vobile, do not publicly release pricing. But we can guess at the ballpark: one medium-sized file hosting service reported that its license for Audible Magic filtering cost $10,000-12,000 per month in 2011 (though this provider was later able to negotiate a reduced rate based on the amount of content flagged through the system). Another estimated that Audible Magic cost its service roughly $25,000 per month. OSPs noted that the licensing fees are just the beginning. Filtering systems, several OSPs noted, are not turnkey services. They require integration with existing systems and upkeep as the OSP takes on new mediation roles between rightsholder and user (such as tracking and managing user appeals).

In other words, those things get really pricey quickly — such that it becomes untenable for all but the largest of service providers.

And that leads us to the second part, about whether or not they work. As we’ve been detailing for years, the answer is clearly no. These fingerprinting technologies make both false positive and false negative errors all the time. We probably have a few examples sent our way every single day. Incredibly, the very lobbying video that Bridy points out Audible Magic created as part of its lobbying effort says that Audible Magic’s technology is accurate to about 99%.

Last summer, we highlighted that Alec Muffett created a “simulator” that would look at the the error rates on such filtering technology — and it noted that if you went with an accuracy level of 99.5% (higher than even Audible Magic claims) and ran it across 10 million pieces of content, you’d end up censoring approximately 50,000 pieces of content that were non-infringing. 50,000. And that’s assuming the technology is even more accurate than even Audible Magic will claim.

And, of course, that’s solely discussing the matching accuracy. It says absolutely nothing about understanding user rights — like fair use, fair dealing, parody, etc — none of which Audible Magic takes into account (meaning even more non-infringing works would get censored).

And, yet, as Bridy shows, Audible Magic has been lobbying hard for this:

It’s not surprising that they’d lobby for such a thing. I mean, which company wouldn’t lobby for a new law that would effectively require thousands of internet companies to buy your product for which there is little to no real competition (oh yeah, which almost certainly means Audible Magic would likely raise prices once the government required everyone to buy its filters).

Bridy highlights that their lobbying claims are complete bullshit as well:

Quite incredible that they highlight the “voluntary” nature of the filters while lobbying for making their technology required under law. And equally ridiculous that they claim that intermediary liability protections some how create “barriers” for online services. That, as Bridy points out, is exactly the opposite of reality. Safe harbors create clear rules that platforms understand so they know what they need to do to set up a legit platform. Removing those rules, as Article 13 does, and requiring expensive (and terrible) technology is a huge barrier, as the cost is prohibitive for most.

There’s more in that thread, but as Bridy shows, Audible Magic’s own presentation shows that it knows who the “winner” of Article 13 will be: Audible Magic inserting itself to become the de facto “copyright filter” layer of the internet:

So, yeah, there was some “tech” lobbying for Article 13 and its mandatory filters. It was just coming from the biggest supplier of those filters.

Filed Under: , , , , , , ,
Companies: audible magic

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “There Was Heavy Tech Lobbying On Article 13… From The Company Hoping To Sell Everyone The Filters”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Well all these laws being created around the world, especially in the EU is doing what they are supposedly against. Locking in big tech American company’s. Who can afford to start up some new service, or competing service with all the many costs involved in doing so?

Of course, they also like it because in creating all these rules, it gives them more excuses for big fines to these company’s, allowing them to pocket a lot of American money since their failed policies have well, failed.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

The Good Thing about High Prices for Faulty Works

There is an explanation for the high prices Audible Magic is charging. They will take fiscal responsibility for each and every false positive and false negative that the hosting company gets charged with. In addition, when some rightsholder giant claims ownership of an independents work, they will compensate that independent with an annual income for life that would make the most highly paid artists in the world envious. That’s in their contract…right?


That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: The Good Thing about High Prices for Faulty Works

If penalties for bogus claims of infringement were even a fraction of penalties for infringement you can be sure that the number of claims issued would drop to almost nothing overnight.

Strangely enough though the penalties for that side of the equation tend to be laughably low, if they exist at all, despite the fact that bogus claims of infringement stand to do demonstrable harm, far more immediate and real than infringement, impacting creators in a much more significant manner.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Hot mess?

"Those who actually own the music will require people to get it directly from them, and other sites will be SOL."


I really shouldn’t be surprised any more when a pro-copyright fanatic comes out swinging in defense of his/her/its latest magic wand and tea leaves…
…but you DO realize that absolutely everything around article 13 will do absolutely nothing to prevent filesharing, hinder filesharing, or make filesharing less visible?

The one and ONLY outcome of this is that legitimate business using online services and legitimate indie artists will find themselves screwed to the point where the only method they’ve got left is to publish in the pirate venues?

So essentially all that happens with article 13 is that it will heavily incentivize the online community towards migrating towards classical pirate technology just to make things work.

Article 13 – and article 11 – is just one more way for the copyright cult to saw off the branch it’s sitting on. We can but applaud.

Anonymous Coward says:

The internet as constructed is an abomination.

One basic assumption that US law applies to the whole world, all locations, all people, and all situations. That is that the US’s First Amendment is applicable to an European communicating with an Arabian. Meaning that anyone can say what they please to anyone else and that there will be no consequences. Unfortunate for the Utopianist the various governments do not see things that way. The governments have that all individuals are subject to their jurisdiction. That means that Everyone is subject to the jurisdiction of every government. With this attitude just what can go wrong in Utopia?

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So, none of the proposed laws discussed in the article solve any of that.

The internet was not constructed with that assumption. The ARPANET was built with the assumption that if information, research, data could be shared in moments instead of days or weeks, then the progress of science, of society, would be improved. The commercially built network that came out of it – the Internet – was built with the assumption that data storage is expensive, and so it would be a new broadcast-like medium where middlemen could charge fees at both ends and a 100 points in between. Its only as the network evolved, as storage became cheap at scale, as speeds improved, that the internet became a communications platform like it is today. You always had some areas dedicated to multi-input communication – forums, BBS, Chatrooms, IRC. But in the modern era, with sites dedicated to User Generated Content, Web 2.0, the internet moved from a relatively static platform to one in which content and communication and changes are happening constantly.

No one actually argues that the First Amendment legally applies to communications between someone in Germany and someone in Saudi Arabia. I don’t know any reason the First Amendment would come into it, unless someone wants to blame the communications platform for something said in the conversation. But the first amendment really isn’t an issue there, because the question of liability for the telephone company isn’t a first amendment issue. Its a question of who did the bad thing – aka where liability should be assigned. If the German said the bad thing, or the Saudi said the bad thing, it doesn’t matter to the platform, because the platform did not say the bad thing.

Techdirt’s stance is that each person is subject to the jurisdiction they reside in. There are courts, local and international, to address wrongs when the person does the bad thing. But if you couldn’t sue the phone company for the bad words, if you couldn’t sue the physical tool maker for the bad thing the user did, you can’t sue the ISP the Hacker used, you can’t suddenly sue the internet platform for someone saying the bad words.

Bob N Weave says:

Re: Re: -- Oh, NOW "it doesn't matter to the platform"?

it doesn’t matter to the platform, because the platform did not say the bad thing.

You are correct in what you state, yet Masnick and other corporatists (likely you too since so support Techdirt) will go out of their way to assert that corporations have a "First Amendment Right" to arbitrarily de-platform anyone based on freedom of association principle. They have it both ways at once.

Reality is that "it matters" when globalist corporations wish to suppress certain speech, even though they’ve statute in the US that grants them immunity for what’s on the platform.

Masnick is a big advocate of corporate control (ALL access to the internet is through corporations), in no uncertain terms:

"And, I think it’s fairly important to state that these platforms have their own First Amendment rights, which allow them to deny service to anyone."

Masnick is not hedging "lawyers say and I don’t entirely agree", or "that isn’t what I call serving The Public", but as VERY RARE for him STATES FLATLY. By deeming it a fundamental "Right", Masnick STATES that he wants a few corporations to have absolute and arbitrary control of ALL MAJOR outlets for The Public. He claims that YOUR Constitutional First Amendment Right in Public Forums are over-arched by what MERE STATUTE lays out.

Masnick flips the First Amendment from protection for "natural" persons into a POWER for use by corporations!


James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: -- Oh, NOW "it doesn't matter to the platform"?

Still not sure how any of that applies to the the discussion of Article 13 lobbbying, but….

Traditionally, Mike is discussing things from an American viewpoint. He is American, the company is american. This may create the appearance of a conflict between the legal rights of a user in a Non US jurisdiction and the legal rights of a platform when they are in other jurisdictions. However, resolution is simple, and I think within the legal concepts Mike has posted.

I am unaware of international laws barring the ability of a service provider to refuse service, indeed such a law would seem to compel a service provider to provide that service even if the service provider did not intend to provide service in that jurisdiction, or intended to cease offering that service. If such a law exists elsewhere, a user in that jurisdiction however could seek to demand adherence to the law. How that would play out would be interesting if the user does proceed to try to force a service provider to provide service if the service provider ceased offering the product in that country, deplatforming the country effectively. But it remains that I am unaware of such a law, and think it would have come up by now.

While the US is using rights of association extending from the first amendment, Most countries recognize these rights in various forms. Most countries I have been to it is well understood a business can refuse service to anyone. You might think service providers like Facebook are public access TV, but in fact you are contracting with a local network affiliate. These are not government created or sponsored public forums.

Mike also notes that there is a distinction between what platforms could do (legal rights) and what they should do (ethical action), and expresses antagonism towards the silencing of speech by heckler’s veto. Its true he believes they should have the option to remove users, because most people believe in the right of a business to refuse service on the basis of the customer’s present actions. He calls it first amendment right of association. Others might call it property rights, or a right of reputation, or several other things. But it doesn’t mean he thinks that the business should do so when it does. Just like a business doesn’t have to make an all-out offensive whenever its encounters anything vaguely resembling its trademark, a business doesn’t have to jettison a customer whose actions are controversial. But they should be capable of doing so, legally.

Gary (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: -- Oh, NOW "it doesn't troll"?

Mr. Weave, thank you for stating your viewpoint on this matter. However, your dislike of corporations seems to have clouded your vision on this.
Twitter is a business, and like any business can have terms of service. They can politely refuse service to anyone they damn well feel like. (Barring certain exceptions such as “No blacks served etc.”, in which case we needed Government Regulations to force people to be less shitty.)

So – Please explain how de-platforming someone is different from refusing service? Can you site a single business that can be forced to provide unlimited service to everyone no matter what they do?

Are businesses somehow different than “Corporations”?

I think you have gone out of your way to invoke your ill-defined “Common Law”dogma again, but you have made exceptional use of CAPS to make your argument SUPER IMPORTANT.

Also – Love of copyright is still love of corporations.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 -- Oh, NOW "it doesn't troll"?

Not all copyrights are owned by corporations.

Many who used to write books don’t even bother, or they use the books to market much more expensigve services to the wealthy, effectively cutting off the masses in a way copyright law was supposed to prevent.

We have makers who want protection for what they create, and takers who want to steal and profit from the work of others. The former will always win legislatively, and the more they win, the more sites like this irrelevant shithole will whine and throw tantrums.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 -- Oh, NOW "it doesn't troll"?

You were going to win until your side decided that they suddenly didn’t like Article 13 despite having already asked for it.

It was a literal giveaway.

The only reason you could have still lost that fight was utter, thorough incompetence, for which you only have yourself to blame.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Information on how to scam people or commit crimes (or illegal files) can also be shared.

This is still the “Wild West” age of the internet, one which will go the way of people getting shot in saloons over poker games etc., or people being able to move to the next town to escape liability.

The internet will be rebuilt. Twenty years is a historical blip. Even the biggest internet companies now won’t matter once the changes come. This is just the beginning of the temperance movement.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I thought the Wild West was supposed to go away with Kazaa shutting down.

Or was it the introduction of six strikes? Or SOPA?

Or was it when Prenda Law led the news and crusade of copyright enforcement?

How do you manage to hire people who are terrible at their jobs so consistently over several decades?

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"The internet will be rebuilt. Twenty years is a historical blip. Even the biggest internet companies now won’t matter once the changes come. This is just the beginning of the temperance movement."

Wrong. That’s like saying the spoken language will be rebuilt because people can still transmit undesired information. It’s not going to happen.

And as long as people can own computers, connect them to a network, and learn to use them that will remain the case for everyone.

And that puts copyright once again in direct conflict with technology the same way it has over the VCR and the tape cassette – or for that matter, the self-playing piano.

So twenty years from now it will be assumed that copyright does not, in practice, exist for digital copies the same way it turned out for tape cassettes and video cassettes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Even audible magics filters would block out
a lot of content Made by small creators, musicians ,
video uploads by youtube users eg creators who are not registered with the large legacy companys ,tv and music corporations like Sony,abc, Fox, disney etc
Since the internet was created and broadband was widely used there are now millions of copyright holders and creators who use the internet as a platform
to show their content and attract fans .
The filter youtube uses only works because it has
acess to a database of content from the big legacy corporations and music companys .

Bob N Weave says:

"no one should pay any attention at all to the critics"

Your intent here is to deflect attention from the critics! You do some block quotes that turn out irrelevant when REVERSE from the "the critics" with two paragraphs starting "However," to introduce your actual targets.

As to Audible Magic: SO WHAT? You clearly do not "support copyright" in any degree if attack company providing a technical means to do so. Your "but they’ll make MONEY (preventing piracy)!" is just the cheapest and easiest objection you can make.

You’ve spent 20 years yelling that artists must look for a "new business model" that magically gains them money while giving away their products for free, and you oppose ANY attempt to protect that value.

You don’t support copyright at all, Masnick. Every anomaly you can find and every hook you can think of, ALL that you do is attack copyright, as here, by advocating against any actual legal protections for content. Just admit it.

Now, you keep tacitly asserting that the "Wild West internet" is the only way it can work. Yet you know full well in that un-policed physical "free markets" cannot work. So it’s just more of your notion that teh internets are fundamentally different from all human experience. — Which just happens to favor GOOGLE and other grifters, such as pirates; don’t have to bother with effort of making and attendant risks, only swoop in and steal the profits.

Your precious Netflix has just turned into The Enemy by joining MPAA. Anyone with content sees the need to protect it from pirates.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...