Axel Voss, MEP Behind Awful Internet Destroying EU Copyright Directive, Tries To Defend His Plan

from the and-fails-miserably dept

Axel Voss, the German Member of the EU Parliament in charge of pushing through the absolutely awful EU Copyright Directive is apparently (finally) feeling some of the heat from people speaking up about just how terrible Articles 11 (link tax) and 13 (mandatory upload filters) will be for the internet. He's put out a video attempting to defend the plan. Even if you don't speak German, I'd recommend watching the video to see his smirk throughout the whole thing. He does not seem to care, nor does he seem to understand the actual implications of what he's doing. Considering that many have tried to explain this to him already, I doubt that we will change his mind, but it's worth exploring just how clueless he appears to be on this issue, and how that should worry Europeans about the future of their internet.

We have at the moment an extreme imbalance in the whole copyright system, on the platforms everything is up loaded, but there is no remuneration of the concerned author, this is getting more by number and that is why I think it is urgently necessary to adapt the copyright to the digital environment.

What, exactly, is the "imbalance"? This is an important question, because the answer is that there is no "imbalance." We live in a time when more content than ever before in history is being created. But it goes beyond that: thanks to the internet, more content creators than ever before in history are able to create and release their own content. And more creators than ever before in history are able to make money from their creations. The idea that "there is no remuneration" isn't just nonsense, it suggests a level of ignorance so high on the part of Voss that he shouldn't be allowed anywhere near questions related to copyright. Tons of different platforms -- the very platforms which will be hit hardest by this nonsense -- are instrumental in building new audiences for artists and helping them get paid.

Bandcamp, Patreon, Kickstarter, Vimeo, Medium, Etsy, DeviantArt, Shapeways, Wordpress, Wix, Lulu, PledgeMusic, Artistshare, Blurb, Scribd, Smashwords, Redbubble, CreateSpace. These are all platforms that are helping a variety of creators create, build up an audience and make money. Yet all of them will be hit hard by Article 13's ridiculous mandatory upload filters, which will in turn do tremendous harm to artists, taking away or greatly limiting their ability to use these platforms. The idea that there's some "imbalance" that Voss can magically fix is nonsense. He's been hearing too much from a few old school legacy businesses that failed to adapt to the internet and now blame Google. And his response is to saddle tons of internet platforms with an unworkable system that will harm all sorts of content creators. Meanwhile, his main target, Google, already has in place a system that has paid out billions of dollars to creators. Yet he continues to lie and claim there is no "remuneration"?

How does anyone take him seriously?

Meanwhile, nothing in the Copyright Directive is likely to get actual artists paid, so whatever false imbalance he sees isn't "cured" by his plan. Google already has an upload filter for YouTube, so nothing changes there. The link tax has already been proven to be an utter failure in Germany and Spain and hasn't gotten legacy publishers any more money -- but has taken away some of their traffic (making them lose money).

So, again, why can't Axel Voss explain what this mythical "imbalance" is?

After that, Voss talks specifically about upload filters, and claims that people complaining about them are engaged in "fake news." Seriously.

This 'nice' fake news campaign that is done by the big platforms, with key words such as 'censor machine' or upload filter, etc so that everybody jumps up without ever having done a reflection on our systematic we established here. If you really look at it, it only concerns platforms, 1 to 5 per cent at all from the global internet and also only those that actually publish copyright protected content, by the clicks they earn money without dripping a single contribution. That we try now is to establish a recognition software for copyright protected content.

We already discussed much of this in responding to PRS's silly attempt at "myth busting" claims about these upload filters. The fact that the law only targets platforms doesn't mean that it doesn't impact the users of those platforms.

Again, a filter would be a massive expense for many of the platforms I named above, and for many, it would make no sense at all. Yet, under the law, many would be obligated to try to build or buy such a filter. Others might simply stop operating in the EU altogether.

As for his attempt to downplay who it impacts, again, this shows just how incredibly ignorant Voss is of how the internet works. As we've mentioned in the past, under Article 13, a site like Tinder would be required to invest in an expensive copyright filter to scan all the images people upload. After all, it publishes lots of copyright-protected content, and it earns money on those images as a commercial business. But is anyone actually going to Tinder for copyright infringement? Of course not, but Voss doesn't seem to care or notice.

And, thanks to the way copyright is now, every platform that allows for user generated content involves publishing "copyright protected content" and assuming it has ads or collects money in anyway, it's commercial. So, this includes forum sites, for example. Are they going to have to pre-scan every comment to make sure it doesn't infringe on some copyright? Voss seems to think only in terms of the largest platforms, and doesn't even give a second thought to the fact that much of the internet is for communicating with one another - and that will involve platforms where users upload content as part of communicating with others. All of that content needs to be scanned?

Voss then responds to other MEPs speaking out against the Directive, calling it "nonsense."

To 99,9 per cent do I assume that they have not once read article 2 and article 13 together. Then I have to say if you don’t pay attention to what we do here, then I have to declare it as nonsense. When you take a look at what we try to achieve, to apply after all copyright, if we want to abandon this or if the German colleagues want to abandon this all, so they need to say so, but only to harp on about it, because it is now ‘en vogue’ to use that word, this I think is wrong.

This is both insulting and ridiculous. The complaints are well thought out and argued and point out just how little Voss actually understands about the damage he's about to do to the internet, and he insults them and brushes it off pretending that "99.9%" haven't even read the Directive. This is not about what's "en vogue," this is about stopping Voss from fundamentally mucking up key parts of how the internet works because a few legacy industries went crying to him over their own inability to adapt to the changing world.

And that brings us to the whole link tax bit:

Neighbouring rights should in principle support the press work, the work of journalists is in a certain way accompanied, so to say the analogue platform for their content; it is legally and factual secured and there is an economical responsibility.

This now completely put into question, due to the fact that there are platforms that use simply the achievements of the publisher without paying anything. And by this the whole press system in a democratic structure becomes dependent from platforms. This is something we don’t want to accept this. Therefore we need to ask ourselves the question if we want an independent press in our democratic society, also financially independent and does it represent a value. And if we believe in this value we should look into ensuring it.

This... not only misunderstands how the internet works, but also how media works. Again, the target here is Google News, which Voss incorrectly seems to think is somehow responsible for many newspapers' economic struggles. But that's nonsense. Google News drives traffic to these websites. And, if they don't think it's valuable, it literally takes 5 seconds for any publisher to opt-out of having its stories appear in Google News. But they won't do that, because they know it's valuable. Destroying Google News won't save news publishers.

He continues, arguing that the link tax isn't really a link tax:

Everybody that wants to create link for a private purpose can continue to do so, this part we excluded precisely, but those who gain again money through this, by a commercial use, they should ask if they can do it or not.

I don’t understand the whole excitement, this is common and part of our value and justice system and to transfer it to the internet and to get this impression that nothing is allowed now, no single person won’t be touched by this. The contrary, we will make it possible that each one can up load content, can use it without being in a legal obligation and this reform brings this positive aspect.

Got that? If you make money by linking, you need to ask permission first. That's... insane. It completely and fundamentally changes the way the internet works. The whole freaking idea behind the internet is you can link to anywhere on the internet... and Voss just wants to completely toss that out he window. And then complains that he "doesn't understand the whole excitement."

Voss doesn't seem to understand that lots of "amateur" and "hobby" sites put up advertisements, or take donations or crowdfunding, just to fund the site. But, those sites "gain money" and thus are "commercial" under his confused view of the world -- and therefore can no longer link without first getting permission. Again, this is so mind-blowingly backwards, and goes against everything that the internet itself was built around. And for what purpose? Because a few old school newspapers can't adapt and are demanding Google pay them money.

What becomes abundantly clear is that Axel Voss has no business being in charge of copyright reform in the EU. He doesn't understand copyright. He doesn't understand the internet. And yet, he's very, very close to fundamentally changing the thing he doesn't understand, based on ideas he doesn't seem to comprehend.

On Thursday, the EU Parliament will vote on this awful plan, and it's incredibly important to contact MEPs to let them know to not to let Voss's ignorance ruin the internet.


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  1. icon
    Bergman (profile), 4 Jul 2018 @ 2:01am

    Re:

    It's even sillier than that. Amazon is also a content upload platform.

    Suppose Mr Author writes a book. He sells it as an ebook for a couple Euros on his own website, and then has a chance to greatly expand his market exposure by selling it for the same couple Euros price on Amazon. Amazon scans his upload against a copyright database and...whoops, it's copyrighted!

    So he gets told he can't sell his own book, that he owns all the rights to, on Amazon -- and if he keeps trying to upload it he'll eventually get banned from Amazon. And how does he prove he owns the rights? He needs a live person to review his upload, but due to the daily volume of uploads, Amazon can't hire enough people to actually do that.

    So Mr Author gets to wait months or even years to begin making money on his book, all in the name of protecting his intellectual property and ensuring he can be paid promptly and fairly for his work.

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