Copyright Law In Europe Could Be About To Get Ridiculously Stupidly Bad In Ways That Will Undermine The Internet

from the this-is-so-dumb dept

Over the last few years, the EU has been going through a pretty big copyright reform process. And it's been quite the roller coaster with some good ideas and some bad ideas mixed in at times. MEP Julia Reda of the Pirate Party has been the point person in calling out the bad ideas and pushing forward the good ones. She's had a fair bit of success, and recently noted that the EU Parliament seemed to be on the road towards a "reasonable position" on copyright. Except... Hollywood can never accept such a thing. And thus, there's an ongoing attempt to slip in some really, really bad ideas, even worse than some of what we'd seen before:

On June 8, the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee will decide its standpoint. This is a crucial step in the copyright reform process, because the IMCO committee is jointly responsible for the Parliament position on one of the most controversial parts of the reform: the introduction of mandatory censorship filters on online services such as social media.

Today it was revealed that MEP Pascal Arimont from the European People’s Party (EPP) is trying to sabotage the Parliamentary process, going behind the negotiators of the political groups and pushing a text that would make the Commission’s original bad proposal look tame in comparison. This is a tactic he recently already successfully applied to prevent the committee from adopting a progressive position on overcoming geoblocking. If he succeeds again, the result would once more do the opposite of what the Committee is tasked to do: Protecting European consumers.

So what's he pushing? Something that would basically make it very, very risky to run a website that allows any kind of commentary. It would basically make the internet safe for giant media companies... and no one else.

Instead of finding a delicate balance between the interests of rights holders, online services and users as agreed by the other political groups, Mr. Arimont’s “alternative compromise” reads like a wish list of the content industry, with utter disregard for the Charter of Fundamental Rights and long-established principles of EU law.

He wants to double down on the obligation for content filtering, which he doesn’t want to just apply to services hosting “large amounts” of copyrighted content, as proposed by the Commission, but to any service facilitating the availability of such content, even if the service is not actually hosting anything at all. This could require content filters even for services that are linking to content on other websites, because hyperlinks, according to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), can be considered a copyright infringement under certain circumstances.

The only exception foreseen would be for micro-businesses that are no older than 5 years. So if you’ve been self-employed for more than 5 years, rules the Commission wrote with the likes of YouTube and Facebook in mind would suddenly also apply to your personal website.

At the same time, Mr. Arimont seeks to completely override the court ruling of the CJEU that states that general monitoring of all users’ activities constitutes a violation of fundamental rights – by brazenly stating that monitoring all users’ uploads for specific copyrighted works is not “general” monitoring, as if it were possible to reliably find all needles in a haystack without looking at the entire haystack.

He then goes on to state that any online service that so much as uses an algorithm to improve the presentation of user-uploaded content (like sorting files alphabetically by their name) would be considered directly liable for any copyright infringement. Where the European Commission proposal was trying to gloss over the fact that it was trying to re-write the intermediary liability rules, Mr. Arimont’s text spells it out for us: “The service providers that play such an active role are ineligible for the liability exemption” (active role being defined by him as “optimisation for the purpose of the presentation by the service of the uploaded works or subject-matter or their promotion by the service, irrespective of the nature of the means used therefor“).

And... that's not all. He's also got a link tax he'd like to shove down your throat:

Since all political groups in the committee except for the EPP (and the populist EFDD) had tabled amendments completely deleting the neighbouring right for publishers, the rapporteur’s suggestion to follow this proposal in the compromise amendments is logical. Of course Mr. Arimont was not happy with this outcome, but his “alternative compromise” reads more like a provocation than an attempt to find middle ground. Contrary to some of his EPP colleagues, who proposed the compromise wording developed by the lead committee rapporteur Therese Comodini (EPP), he goes for a drastic extension of the Commission’s proposed extra copyright for news publishers.

Where the Commission proposes a protection of 20 years for the use of news snippets in a digital form, he extends it to 50 years, for both offline and online uses. Reciting a headline from the cold war era would suddenly require permission from the original publisher, who may have long since gone out of business. Where the Commission wants to apply this right to press publishers only, Mr. Arimont explicitly includes academic publishers, a move that would spell disaster for any open access initiatives.

In an attempt to silence the most vocal critics of this copyright extension, Mr. Arimont generously clarifies that single words should not be covered by the new rights, and neither should hyperlinks. That of course means that anything that goes beyond a single word – two words – or the naked URL to a news article would be covered by the neighbouring right. And who’s going to click a link that doesn’t even use the headline of the news article as an indication of what can be found at the other end?

If you don't recall, this is basically a proposal saying that you'd have to pay major media publishers to link to them with a snippet. This is the proposal that shortsighted news media companies have been pushing for under the silly idea that Google News is unfairly "profiting" from their news... while sending them traffic for free. Instead, these companies want Google to keep sending them traffic... but also pay for the privilege. But, now, with this proposal, it appears that this will expand much further and would undermine the basic concept of linking online.

And... that's not all. An EFF blog post which discusses the problems with this proposal also notes that there's another bad proposal coming from elsewhere, such as killing off image search:

Another of the senseless proposals that has been published this week, this time not by the Shadow Rapporteur of IMCO but by the CULT committee again, is a proposed amendment to extend the "value gap" proposal to include a new tax on search engines that index images, as for example Google and Bing do. This proposed amendment [PDF] provides:

Information society services that automatically reproduce or refer to significant amounts of visual works of art for the purpose of indexing and referencing shall conclude licensing agreements with right holders in order to ensure the fair remuneration of visual artists.

It's unclear how much support this particular proposed amendment may have, but should it find its way into the final CULT committee report, we can well imagine that just as Google News shut down in Spain following Spain's implementation of a link tax for news publishers, the closure of image search services won't be far behind. It's hard to see that outcome as being any less detrimental to artists as it would be for users.

The really amazing thing here is just how regressive and backwards looking these proposals are. They are clearly not for the benefit of the public. They are clearly not for the benefit of innovation or of information sharing. Rather, they all appear to be focused on one thing: helping out large legacy companies who have failed to fully adapt to the modern internet era. This is not just bad policy, it's extraordinarily bad for the public and for future innovation.


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  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 5 Jun 2017 @ 4:06am

    But it won't actually help legacy industry anyway. It just gives them that sense of control they want. They waste so much money and time on this, and make life horrible for everyone.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    My_Name_Here, 5 Jun 2017 @ 4:10am

    So much good news. I think I need new underwear, my boner made a hole in these.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 5 Jun 2017 @ 4:58am

    A 'compromise' in the same sense that a mugging is a 'business transaction'

    This is a tactic he recently already successfully applied to prevent the committee from adopting a progressive position on overcoming geoblocking. If he succeeds again, the result would once more do the opposite of what the Committee is tasked to do: Protecting European consumers.

    Sounds like someone in dire need of being fired.

    From a catapult.

    Into the closest sewage treatment plant.

    If he doesn't give a damn about serving the public and is so very dedicated instead to serving legacy industry interests he has no place in discussions that will affect the public and internet on such a large scale, especially with his fractally wrong ideas that stand to drive massive numbers of companies clean out of the EU.

    Demands for content filters.

    Scanning all content posted by users and using some downright pathetic excuses for why it's not a 'general' monitoring of content.

    A snippet tax, again. Twenty-third time's the charm?

    And then the idiotic cherry on top of the moronic cake, holding sites liable for the content of their users, ensuring that only the largest companies(you know, the ones they claim to hate so much) will be able to host user submitted content, if they bother doing so at all.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2017 @ 4:58am

    "Rather, they all appear to be focused on one thing: helping out large legacy companies who have failed to fully adapt to the modern internet era."

    Mike, Can you explain how, in your view, these companies should "fully adapt"? Thanks.

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

    • icon
      ThaumaTechnician (profile), 5 Jun 2017 @ 5:16am

      Re:

      Mike's already done that.

      Just go back and read (note, I didn't say 'reread') pretty all he's written about this area of law and policy for the last, oh, fifteen years.

      If that's too much work for you, then maybe just the last two years.

      If that's too much work for you, then maybe just the last six months.

      If that's too much work for you, then don't bother commenting.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 5 Jun 2017 @ 5:17am

      Re:

      1) Stop trying to sabotage/extort the companies sending them free traffic, and instead try to work with them to increase that traffic.

      2) Realize that they no longer have a monopoly on content, and that if they want people to come to them they're going to have to make it worth the viewer's attention to do so. Exclusive content, easy to navigate and useful services, and so on.

      3) The golden era of rolling in advertising profits is over, and it's not coming back. Accept this and focus on finding new ways to make money, ideally without annoying the ever loving crap out of visitors and insisting they do the equivalent of disabling their anti-virus when they check out your site.

      There are probably more ideas, but those are a few that come to mind.

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

      • identicon
        My_Name_Here, 5 Jun 2017 @ 5:47am

        Re: Re:

        1) Sort of sounds like "cooperate with your attacker to lessen the pain". Most new media have shown that they are not making much or anything with all of this "traffic", even after they turn the ads up to 11. You can ask Mike about how that goes here on Techdirt, where income has dropped something like 90%. The only ones making money on the transaction at the moment is Google.

        2) They were never a monopoly on content. Almost every city and every country has a huge number of newspapers, radio stations, tv stations, and magazines to compete against. Each of these was paying for journalists, editors, and the like, and each was collecting the news and competing in the marketplace for eyeballs. They didn't have to deal with a gatekeeper like Google to decide who did and didn't see most of their content.

        3) The giant sucking sound in the room is the sound of Google taking all of the ad dollars, by being a middle man in 75% or more of all web searches, rewarding sites they like and ignoring the ones they don't - forcing those people to pay for clicks or fold. How much? Something north of 50 billion of ad revenue in 2016 alone.

        In all of this, Google is only as good as the content listed. If Google actually had to pay to collect the news (by hiring journalists, sending people out to get stories, and so on) they likely wouldn't be in the business at all.

        Google's monopoly position in search (especially in Mobile) makes them a gsatekeeper, one that extracts most of the money up front and leaves a pittance behind for the actual content creators to work with.

        The reality is that Techdirt has seen the same problem. Even with compelling content that keeps users coming back, the site is getting little ad revenue and has little hope of changing that around any time soon. There isn't a shortage of online ad sales, it's just that Google gets most of it. If the site pushing you to "adapt" can't really adapt, why do you think anyone else can?

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

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 5 Jun 2017 @ 3:55pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          1) Which explains why every single other time this has happened and Google responded by dropping the links/snippets the 'victim' screamed bloody murder and begged Google to re-list them. Because apparently they just couldn't get enough of that 'pain'. For not making much from the traffic Google sends them they sure whine like mad when it's cut off.

          2) Dozens of alternatives isn't even close to the thousands of alternatives that people have now. Where before they may have had to compete with a handful and just tweak a few things to make themselves stand out, now they have to deal with an ocean of competing content, much of it free, which means if they want people to pay them they need to make it worth it.

          As for Google being a 'gatekeeper' and deciding who can see their content? Yeah, no. Sites are quite capable at advertising their sites/services on their own, Google doesn't owe them traffic and the fact that Google happens to be a service many people use to find content is irrelevant.

          If Google decides to remove a site from their service, say because said site tried to shake them down and demand payment, then they are still free to try to get traffic in other ways, they just can't force Google to provide it for them, and if they get less traffic because they're no longer listed in Google's services that's just too bad for them.

          3) Google is popular and gets a lot of business. That this might mean less profits for others is kinda how business works. If you're running a business and someone starts up another that makes it so that you make less money because they do it better and/or make it so that your business is less profitable somehow you don't get to cry 'Foul!' and demand that they give you a bigger cut.

          In all of this, Google is only as good as the content listed. If Google actually had to pay to collect the news (by hiring journalists, sending people out to get stories, and so on) they likely wouldn't be in the business at all.

          You're ignoring half of the equation. Google is popular because lots of people use it to find content, so in that sense it's 'dependent' on the content, but content that no-one can find is content that's not going to be very successful(monetarily or otherwise), so in that sense the content is dependent on Google. If it's working right then it's a symbiotic relationship, where both sites and Google get traffic, it only gets screwed up when one side gets greedy and demands to be paid for their half.

          Google's monopoly position in search (especially in Mobile) makes them a gsatekeeper, one that extracts most of the money up front and leaves a pittance behind for the actual content creators to work with.

          'Popular' does not equal 'monopoly', there are plenty of alternative search engines so saying Google has a 'monopoly position' isn't going to fly.

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

          • identicon
            My_Name_Here, 5 Jun 2017 @ 7:35pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            1) They want to be listed like everyone else. Google doesn't have special sections for things other than news, why can't Google just list news sites like everyone else and stop creating a special news service built on other people's content?

            2) The thousands of alternatives generally are depending on the dozens of alternatives to collect and write the stories for them. So much of the "reporting" (including here) are basically links to other stories, which are in turn built up from other people's stories, which all trace back to a limited number of actual news reports by the small collection of news organizations actually news gathering.

            Nobody suggest Google "owes" anyone traffic. That's daft.

            3) Google is a near monopoly. A huge percentage of search, and everything from a browser, two operating systems, ISP, and other services to maintain and expand that near monopoly.

            "'Popular' does not equal 'monopoly', there are plenty of alternative search engines so saying Google has a 'monopoly position' isn't going to fly."

            See above. Google has a near monopoly on search, and has used that near monopoly position to become the near monopoly player in online ads. Any website that denies Google access is cutting out such a large percentage of the total population that it's suicidal. When a website owner has no choice but to do things Google's way or die, you have a pretty good definition of a monopoly player.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 6 Jun 2017 @ 12:46am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              If nobody suggested that Google owes anyone traffic, then why the big fuss when Google pulled News out of Spain?

              Here's a hint: try remembering what you posted under the "Whatever" pseudonym. It makes you look less like you're full of it.

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

              • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
                identicon
                My_Name_Here, 6 Jun 2017 @ 1:13am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Please don't respond to the obvious fake. Masnick, Leigh and PaulT are hell-bent on portraying me as an idiot.

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

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 6 Jun 2017 @ 9:25pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  You really don't need the help. You're an idiot no matter how many IP addresses you post from.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 6 Jun 2017 @ 1:55pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              So much of the "reporting" (including here) are basically links to other stories, which are in turn built up from other people's stories, which all trace back to a limited number of actual news reports by the small collection of news organizations actually news gathering.

              And why don't the news gatherers pay the news creators, the people who actually make the news? Why should the so-called "news organizations" get a free ride off the backs of the news creators? If it were not for the news creators, there would be no news stories. So, if someone makes news, those reporting on it should have to pay for the right to do so. Otherwise they're stealing "content" from the creators!

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 7 Jun 2017 @ 9:35am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "Google doesn't have special sections for things other than news"
              - Google shopping for products.
              - Google maps for locations
              - Google images for... well... images.
              Yes, nothing else but news.

              "Nobody suggest Google "owes" anyone traffic."
              Actually yes, some do suggest exactly that. There have even been attempts to make laws that state both that Google owes traffic *and* had to pay the target for the privilege.
              The law proposed this time doesn't mandate the referencing, but that's the only positive (or rather non-negative) thing about it.

              Finally, Techdirt is not a Google apologetic. The authors here have denounced Google'd abused too. The problem here is a law that threatens the whole internet... and the irony is that such a law would likely bring Google's position closer to a monopoly because his competitors would be less likely to survive the abusive requirements it introduces.

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

        • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
          identicon
          My_Name_Here, 5 Jun 2017 @ 5:55pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Stop making me sound like such a cocksucker, Leigh. I know it's you.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2017 @ 9:55pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          > You can ask Mike about how that goes here on Techdirt, where
          > income has dropped something like 90%. The only ones making
          > money on the transaction at the moment is Google.

          Citation needed.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2017 @ 5:46am

      Re:

      Please explain why the legacy industry should be allowed to use the law to ensure that the scarcity of cultural items created by their selective publication model should be the only publication model.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2017 @ 6:12pm

      Re:

      Mike, Can you explain how, in your view, these companies should "fully adapt"? Thanks.

      TechDirt

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

  • icon
    wshuff (profile), 5 Jun 2017 @ 5:02am

    And once implemented, the Internet ground to a halt, people returned to the card catalog to find information, and finally, Big Library got what they'd be wanting all along.

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

  • identicon
    spodula, 5 Jun 2017 @ 6:01am

    No problem here in the UK

    By the time it gets through, it wont be an issue here in the UK, cos you wont be able to use the internet except on the day your Met-appointed net-nanny pops around to look over your shoulder.

    Except in Parlement of course. There totally trustworthy....

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

  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 5 Jun 2017 @ 6:16am

    An old adage comes to mind...

    ... Something about a genie and a bottle...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2017 @ 7:54am

    to me, the two main, disastrous points with the proposals are firstly, that no one, unless they were being financially rewarded, would even think about doing this sort of thing for any industry or reason, let alone for the entertainment Industries! why no one actually looks at why those who are promoting these new changes are doing so, is beyond me! secondly, that as soon as they have gained total control of the Internet, the thing that has been the main aim for these industries since the very start, since they were too ignorant to see the potential and income that could be gained by it's use, particularly with torrent files (which will become the dog's bollocks of file transferring rather than the scourge the industries treat them as being atm), it will be proclaimed as the 'must have' thing, the only way to get movies and music, as well as games, books and news, provided permission given and a price is paid that will be equal to a High Street purchase without the case and art work or the costs to the Industries, thereby making them even more profit for doing next to fuck all!!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2017 @ 9:11am

    The Internet itself is above copyright or any politicians' delusional wishes.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2017 @ 9:45am

    Copyright is already bad in ways that undermine not only the internet, but society in general. Maybe making it "ridiculously stupidly bad" is necessary to get the general public to finally realise this and demand its abolishment.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2017 @ 10:23am

    "...regressive and backwards..."

    That's a pretty good way to describe copyright in general.

    Abolish copyright.
    Period.

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

  • identicon
    JOHN MAYOR, 5 Jun 2017 @ 12:14pm

    THE SCOPE OF DIGITAL HUMAN RIGHTS

    The Internet is still VERY NEW!... and the elements needed to make it run properly, are yet to be put into place! And one such ESSENTIAL ELEMENT... among many!... is a REAL TIME MECHANISM TO EFFECT THE UPHOLDING OF INDIVIDUAL ICT DIGITAL HUMAN RIGHTS! And, for example, affixing a GLOBAL ICON onto one's taskbar, that afterupon tapping, will summon the most powerful aggregation of ICT DHR powers ever amassed in the history of networked computing! And until we agree on the mechanism behind this yet to be implemented icon for DHR, we will continue to individually, and collectively "spin our cyber wheels" re how best to resolve this, that, and the other DHR breach! And NONE of our "continental" and national focus will suffice, because the Internet-- and by virtue of its inherent design!-- IS INTERNATIONAL/ GLOBAL!
    .
    To sum up... each of us should be thinking of these ICT issues from a PURELY GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE!... and we should be fashioning personal folders within our respective PCs, that list the EFFECTUAL GLOBAL PLAYERS IN ICT DHR!... AND WE MUST BEGIN TO DELIMIT THE PARTISAN PLAYERS, WHICH ARE NARROWLY FOCUSED PARTICIPANTS IN THE EVOLUTION OF THE NET!
    .
    I'm not a "Nationalist"!... I never have been, nor will I ever be one in the future! MY WORLD, is my community!... and its problems, are my problems! And although I am quite concerned about the problems of those around me, I am also concerned about the plight of peoples I have never met, nor may ever meet! And for one basic reason... my GLOBAL FAMILY may hold answers for both myself and my immediate neighbors that both I and my neighbors, could not have envisaged! And so... to exclude their impact on my life, may be to exclude some tangible joys in my life! And that... for me!... is an important reason for GLOBAL INCLUSIVITY! This is not to put continental, national and regional concerns in some obscure corner, but to realize that such localized concerns have an OVERARCHING A PRIORI, that must be addressed! The math over in Italy, should be the same in New York City!
    .
    Please!... no emails!

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

  • icon
    Seegras (profile), 5 Jun 2017 @ 1:39pm

    Courts

    If this passes, it will be thrown out by the court(s) because of a) violation of human rights b) fostering anticompetitive behaviour.

    But it will still be a major nuisance for a lot of people for several years. Not to mention a huge waste of money.

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

  • identicon
    Daydream, 5 Jun 2017 @ 4:06pm

    Laws today seem to be divided into two categories:

    Good laws which the 'elite' have no interest in upholding (Freedom of Information, whistleblower protections, due process, etc.)

    And bad laws that only the 'elite' want to enforce ('give-up-your-password', drug laws, and of course copyright).

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

  • identicon
    tin-foil-hat, 5 Jun 2017 @ 9:51pm

    I'm Relieved ...

    I'm relieved to know that the US is in good company with the rest of the world's idiots.

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

  • icon
    Advocate (profile), 6 Jun 2017 @ 12:37pm

    h We're in an attention bubble. The value of clicks and so forth cannot be readily converted to external value without extreme externalities.. which is what capitalism is perfect for.

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


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