EU Parliament Report Recommends Throwing Out Something Even Worse Than The Link Tax: Upload Filtering

from the save-the-meme dept

Techdirt has just written about how a report from the European Parliament's "rapporteur" -- basically, the subject lead -- on planned reforms to EU copyright law recommends dumping one of the most stupid ideas in the draft proposals, a link or "snippets" tax. Although that's good news, it shouldn't come as a huge surprise. After all, the idea has already been tried in Germany and Spain, and failed dismally both times. The damage that a link tax would cause to the smooth functioning of the Web is so obvious that the only people refusing to acknowledge that fact are the publishers who have been demanding this new "right" as part of their copyright maximalism. But alongside the ridiculous snippets tax, there's another extremely dangerous idea that the European Commission has slipped into its copyright reform. Article 13 of the published draft (pdf) reads as follows:

Information society service providers that store and provide to the public access to large amounts of works or other subject-matter uploaded by their users shall, in cooperation with rightholders, take measures to ensure the functioning of agreements concluded with rightholders for the use of their works or other subject-matter or to prevent the availability on their services of works or other subject-matter identified by rightholders through the cooperation with the service providers. Those measures, such as the use of effective content recognition technologies, shall be appropriate and proportionate.

That is, those running online sites where users upload large quantities of material would be obliged to filter all those files to check for copyright material by using some unspecified, possibly magical, "content recognition technologies" that can tell when something is illegal or not. The problems with this are many and deep, as a post on the EDRi site explains:

the proposal of the Commission would require private companies to police the internet, in direct contradiction to two separate European Court rulings. The proposal would eliminate our freedoms to remix, to parody and others, in explicit breach of the EU's obligations contained in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.

The good news is that Therese Comodini Cachia, the rapporteur who wants to drop the link tax, also has some sensible suggestions for how to fix this "censorship machine":

In the leaked proposed amendments [to the new EU copyright law], Ms Comodini has deleted key aspects of the section of the draft Directive and amended the proposal in a way which would minimise the worst aspects of the censorship machine. Moreover, she has correctly restated the liability rules which exist in current EU legislation (the e-Commerce Directive). She advocates for the licensing agreements that were the ostensible goal of the European Commission in the first place.

However, it would be premature to celebrate this outbreak of good sense. Although it seems quite likely that the European Parliament will agree with the recommendations of its rapporteur here, the European Commission and national governments of the member states may disagree, and still try to keep Article 13 in its current form because of pressure from lobbyists. Ultimately, that would lead to EU negotiations behind closed doors and compromises that could see upload filtering retained with some modifications and perhaps token safeguards.

Fortunately, there is still some time to mobilize public opinion here. Although upload filtering seems an obscure, rather technical issue, it threatens some very fundamental Internet freedoms like remixing and creating parodies. As part of an effort to reach a broader audience, the Dutch Bits of Freedom digital rights group has put together a simple site called "Save the Meme," which encourages EU citizens to contact their MEPs to make sure as many as possible vote against Article 13, sending a strong signal to the European Commission and national governments that it has to go -- just like the link tax.

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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 10 Mar 2017 @ 11:49am

    Fractally stupid

    Among the many problems with this idiocy is the idea that it's possible to 'filter' for copyright infringing files, given two important things:

    -Whether or not something is infringing very often depends on context, not content. The exact same file can be both infringing and non-infringing depending upon the context of the use, something that cannot be accounted for by filters, which are black or white, yes or no. To say that such a system would be overrun with false positives is an understatement on the same level as saying that the surface of the sun is 'kinda warm'.

    -This one may or may not be a problem, depending on how the law works in the EU as opposed to the US, but a filtering system would also require that there be something to check against.

    All content that was being filtered for would have to be deposited by the owner at a central repository so that the filters would have something to check against, which is rather close to the idea that if you want your copyright you must register it, and if the pushback I've seen against that idea is any indicator a requirement for essentially the same thing probably wouldn't go over very well.

    The idea of a mandatory filtering system isn't just bad, it's colossally stupid and likely to cause immense damage if implemented. Hopefully saner heads will prevail and the idea will be taken down and killed like the abomination that it is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2017 @ 12:14pm

      Re: Fractally stupid

      The exact same file can be both infringing and non-infringing depending upon the context of the use, something that cannot be accounted for by filters

      Even manual review can't entirely fix it. A full copy of a work can be non-infringing for certain uses, but hosting sites can't always know how they're being used—e.g. if someone posts an entire film to Youtube for educational reasons, how does Youtube know whether the viewers are students?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2017 @ 1:04pm

      Re: Fractally stupid

      If I read it correctly the law is rubber in the quoted section and thus a real requirement to filter, it is not.

      In context the most likely reading of the section would be that Youtube et al. have to work with content owners on a system that preemptively refuse illegal content if the same content has been found illegal before. The op is thus a bit hyperbolic in this context.

      EDRi talks about principles: It should never be the duty of the hosting platform to preemptively police content since that would make them directly liable towards both sides (right now Youtube is legally grey with their "not DMCA"-system and their "not responsible for content before made aware" DMCA-protection. Legally Youtube is a ninja at averting responsibility.).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2017 @ 1:41am

      Re: Fractally stupid

      Then again content filtering based on the requirement that something is registered rather than automatically granted copyright would just be giving the publishers exactly what they asked for, in the same way Google decided to not pay the link tax and just yank the service.

      Should help with the ever shrinking public domain issue.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2017 @ 12:41pm

    One really huge issue I see with this is that if nothing else it fully locks in the big players. Youtube already has the content id system, so they are fine, but what about some small startup?

    That kind of system isn't exactly easy to build, and I'm betting google (I'm sorry, alphabet) isn't going to give that technology away to a startup for free.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 10 Mar 2017 @ 12:43pm

    A simple thought.

    If the RIAA and the MPAA could not create a "Minority Report"-style "pre-infringement" tool, what makes the EU think it can?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 10 Mar 2017 @ 12:52pm

      Pointy-haired boss syndrome

      Because everything seems easy when you aren't the one who has to do it and/or figure out how it's to be done.

      "You need to create this filter."

      "How? Also, who's paying for this?"

      "Those sound like 'not our problem' questions. You're smart, I'm sure you'll figure it out."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2017 @ 1:36pm

      Re: A simple thought.

      Who says those groups didn't create such a system? Or at least in their minds they did. It is actually really really simple system. If the content was not produced by RIAA or MPAA then it is the work of filthy pirates. Simple as that!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 10 Mar 2017 @ 1:53pm

        Re: Re: A simple thought.

        On the one hand I want to vote Funny because that idea is just so crazy it has to be a joke. On the other hand it strikes me as Insightful because that does seem to be fairly close to the mindset some I've seen display, the idea of 'If it's not made/owned by the Professionals then it doesn't count'.

        Have both I guess.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2017 @ 8:48pm

      Re: A simple thought.

      The bigger question is why is the EU and US governments so heck bent on catering to the RIAA/MPAA and industry interests over the public interest or the interests of artists. I mean, just look how long copy protection lasts and how it kept getting extended. I don't ever recall mass public protesting demanding these copy protection extensions but I do recall industry interests lobbying for them. I do recall secretive meetings with industry interests where the public was not invited.

      We need a government that caters to the public interest.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2017 @ 10:08pm

        Re: Re: A simple thought.

        The very name copy'right' is dishonest on its face and reveals the true dishonest intent of these laws. For me to even consider taking them as even being potentially honest the first order of business would be to rename them. It's hard for me to take a set of laws seriously when their very name is dishonest to begin with.

        and those claiming that copy'right' is a right are also dishonest liars that aren't to be taken seriously. It's a privilege, not a right, and as such it should only be intended to serve the public interest.

        Calling a right, as if its purpose should be to serve the 'right' of those that are allegedly entitled to such a right when they're not, just convinces me these laws should be abolished.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2017 @ 1:37am

        Re: Re: A simple thought.

        Basically it is a case of who do you listen to, the lobbyists who who put forward consistent viewpoint and define what they want, or the electorate who have many differing opinions. The first is the easy option, the latter requires a lot of research and effort to come to a decision.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2017 @ 1:55pm

    When compromising is too great of a compromise...

    I know it is a greatly used tactic in politics to make a completely outrageous suggestion in order to compromise and get the thing you were after all along - but this is the problem when people who know squat about technology tries to apply this. They play it off like both sides has to give a little something to "compromise", but when even the smallest compromises has a huge potential to ruin the very fundamental function and workings of this technology, there can and should not be any talks or any negotiating.
    All this could be avoided if they would just spend a little time actually learning about the subject they are talking about.
    Maybe they have and are just that willing to screw it up for greed or power.
    No matter the reason, hopefully smarter people will stand up and fight against these worse than useless politicians.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tin-Foil-Hat, 10 Mar 2017 @ 6:24pm

    Something for Nothing

    I hope content providers leave Europe and tell these regulators and the people/companies thst feel entitled to be paid for doing nothing to go fuck themselves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2017 @ 8:27pm

    You know what's irritating is that textbooks often take images from Wikipedia and other CC content and they take images from free 3D online graphing software or free software that will show the 3D conformation of a chemical structure. It's irritating how they freely take from others but they give back nothing.

    and math books don't change much yet they keep flipping the problems around a little bit and send new editions. It's really a big big big scam that the old texts are still protected when they should be public domain so we can just print new ones. It's not like calculus books change much or like the subject is moving fast. Calculus (all levels) today is exactly the same as it was 10 years ago.

    It's a sham. Supposedly the textbook companies don't make much money off this scam (or so they tell you) but if that were the case they wouldn't keep pulling this scam. What's worse is that the government allows this nonsense and schools keep adopting these very overpriced books.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2017 @ 9:05pm

      Re:

      Or lets not forget how pharmaceutical corporations rely on government funded research to provide primary research, which is more expensive, before they decide to spend money on further research and to benefit from the primary research with patents while contributing nothing back. (Not to mention how they often let the little guy do all the expensive R&D and only buy the patent to those drugs that get approval while allowing the little guys that do R&D on drugs that don't get approved to suffer the costs and perhaps go out of business at no expense to the big companies. I suppose one could argue that this makes patents good for the little guy who can now sell them once they do get a successful product).

      Not to mention how software with patents and copy protection has taken so many ideas and perhaps some code (or has been suspected of doing so, not that they can get in trouble for it) from free and open source software and they benefit from it while contributing nothing back and insisting that they acquire as many patents as they can on the most obvious of ideas and locking everyone else out.

      Then the pro-IP crowd says "but Microsoft is better thanks to copy protection laws". While I think that some copy protection can be good (though it lasts way too long) I think part of the reason why these companies are so successful is because of the unfair advantage they have mentioned above. For every idea they take and implement in a piece of software they should be required to contribute one of their patents associated with said software back to the public domain.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2017 @ 9:06pm

        Re: Re:

        errr ... let's not forget

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2017 @ 9:14pm

        Re: Re:

        Let's also not forget that subjects involved in the clinical trials that the pharmaceutical corporations conduct are volunteers.

        Subjects should insist that if they are going to volunteer that the proceeds of their volunteer work would yield a limited max price when the drug is released.

        It's no wonder why pharmaceutical corporations are having a tougher and tougher time finding volunteers btw, those volunteers know that if that drug is useful it will become too expensive for anyone to afford and they see how the pharmaceutical corporations absolutely exploit these volunteers while contributing as little as possible back in the form of seeking ridiculous prices in exchange for all the risk that the volunteers took. Potential volunteers figure if the pharmaceutical corporations want to be as selfish and self interested about everything as possible why should potential volunteers be any different. How can these purely hedonistic pharmaceutical corporations possibly preach altruism with a straight face and expect potential volunteers to take them seriously.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2017 @ 5:53am

    Those who send me targeted advertising will be charged for each and every ad that makes use of my info. Damn pirates!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    stosh, 11 Mar 2017 @ 9:12am

    Arrest and jail the biggest plagiarists, copyright infringers on the planet - politicians. They haven't had an original thought in decades.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2017 @ 1:17pm

      Re:

      Actually I think you hit a very important nail there:

      Legislation today requires a phD in international legal history because of "trade agreements" and other "international responsibilities". That is why they are parroting canned responses and saying meaningless gibberish. They don't know if something is possible and would thus try to at least reserve some linguistic wiggle-room so they don't have to rely on "alternative facts"!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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