Latest Text Of EU Copyright Directive Shows It's Even Worse Than Expected: Must Be Stopped

from the the-internet-is-at-risk dept

One of the oddities of the vote a few weeks back in the EU Parliament's JURI Committee concerning the proposed EU Copyright Directive, was that there was no published text of what they were voting on. There were snippets and earlier proposals released, but the full actual text was only just released, and it's not in the most readable of formats. However, what is now clear is that the JURI Committee not only failed in its attempts to "fix" the many, many, many problems people have been raising about the Directive, but it actually makes many of the problems worse -- including saying that online platforms become legally responsible for any copyright infringement on their platforms. This new text effectively says that the internet should only be a broadcast medium, and no longer allow for open user platforms.

MEP Julia Reda has an excellent analysis of what's problematic about the released text, but I want to focus in on a few of the more bizarre changes in particular. First, on the whole Article 11 "link tax" bit, JURI apparently thought they could quiet down the protests by adding a line that says:

2a. The rights referred to in paragraph 1 shall not extend to acts of hyperlinking.

So now supporters of Article 11 will point to this new line and say "see?!? it's not about a link tax." Which would be great... if the rest of the text actually lived up to that. Unfortunately, basically every bit of the rest of Article 11 undermines that. Because it still creates a license requirement on a snippet of any length, and most URLs these days include a "snippet" of the headline of an article within the URL itself. Unless everyone starts stripping the text that includes such snippets -- making URLs significantly less useful -- those links will still run afoul of this licensing/tax requirement. Thus, them declaring that a hyperlink is not covered is meaningless if the rest of the directive can only be read in a manner that would include nearly all links.

Once again, it appears this amendment was written by someone who has no functional understanding of how the internet works, and thus does not realize how badly drafted this proposal is. It's the kind of thing a non-technically-inclined lawyer would write in response to people calling this a "link tax." "Oh," they would say, "well, let's just say it doesn't apply to links," even if any reading of the directive would mean it absolutely must apply to most links -- especially any that use any sort of descriptive text. On top of that if you share a link on a platform like Twitter or Facebook that automatically sucks in some snippet text, you're now violating the law as well.

Another change made by JURI is much, much, much more concerning. This is on Article 13, the part about mandatory upload filters. For unclear and unknown reasons, JURI decided to expand Article 13 to make it even more ridiculous. First, it redefines an "online content sharing services" to completely wipe out any intermediary liability protections for such platforms. The most standard form of protecting platforms from liability is to note (correctly!) that a platform is just a tool and is not the publisher or speaker of works posted/uploaded by third-party users. That's sensible. You can then (as the EU already does) put certain restrictions on those protections, such as requiring a form of a notice-and-takedown regime. But, the fundamental, common sense, idea is that a platform is the tool, and not the actual "speaker" of the third party content.

But JURI wiped that out. Instead, it explicitly states that any content shown via online platforms are the responsibility of those platforms by saying that such platforms "perform an act of communication to the public" in showing the content uploaded by users. This is a massive change and basically wipes out all intermediary liability protections for platforms:

Online content sharing service providers perform an act of communication to the public and therefore are responsible for their content. As a consequence, they should conclude fair and appropriate licensing agreements with rightholders. Therefore they cannot benefit from the liability exemption provided...

That's... bad. It's much, much worse than the original text from the commission, which made it clear that intermediary liability protections in the E-Commerce Directive still applied to such platforms. Here they explicitly remove that exception and say that platforms cannot benefit from such protections. As Reda points out, under this reading of the law almost any user-generated site on the internet will be in violation, and potentially at significantly greater legal liability than the various "pirate" sites people have complained about in the past:

By defining that platforms – and not their users – are the ones “communicating” uploaded works “to the public”, they become as liable for the actions of their users as if they had committed them themselves. Let’s imagine a company that makes an app for people to share videos of their cats. If even one user among millions uses the CatVideoWorld3000 app to record a Hollywood movie off a theater screen rather than their kitty, that’d be legally as bad as if the business’ employees had committed the copyright infringement themselves intentionally to profit off of it. The Pirate Bay, MegaUpload and Napster were all much more innocent than any site with an upload form will now be in the eyes of the law.

And that's not all that JURI did. It also outlawed image search with an amendment. No joke.

Use of protected content by information society services providing automated image referencing

Member States shall ensure that information society service providers that automatically reproduce or refer to significant amounts of copyright-protected visual works and make them available to the public for the purpose of indexing and referencing conclude fair and balanced licensing agreements with any requesting rightholders in order to ensure their fair remuneration. Such remuneration may be managed by the collective management organisation of the rightholders concerned.

This was not discussed previously and not recommended by the EU Commission. But, what the hell, while they're outlawing Google News, why not outlaw Google Images in the same shot.

There's a lot more in the text, but it's really, really bad. Effectively, the document envisions a world in which everything on the internet is "licensed" and any platform will be legally liable for any content on its platform. What you get in that world is not the internet -- the greatest communications medium ever made. What you get is... TV. A limited broadcast medium only for those who are pre-checked by gatekeepers.

It is incredibly important that the EU not move forward with this Directive. Contact the EU Parliament now and tell them to #SaveYourInternet before they vote on this proposal this Thursday.


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  1. icon
    Gary (profile), 3 Jul 2018 @ 9:02am

    Seems like it's what they want

    Doesn't seem like there is much question, they really want the internet rolled back so we have a few publishers acting as gatekeepers. Rightsholders are open about wanting that, and they have the clout to engage the politicians.
    Governments interested in control are just as happy. Far easier to pressure a few publishers than shut down millions of conversations.

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

  2. icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 3 Jul 2018 @ 9:31am

    Trying to get this to not pass is not enough. We need to actually push back.

    We need to get a reform bill in Congress that undoes the damage of the DMCA and subsequent abuses. At the top of the agenda should be decreasing copyright terms, doing away with the morally indefensible notice-and-takedown regime, and stripping legal protection from DRM. If we begin to move things back in the right direction, it will take the wind out of the Europeans' sails by making it more difficult to claim they're following worldwide trends.

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

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2018 @ 9:48am

    Links

    Unless everyone starts stripping the text that includes such snippets -- making URLs significantly less useful -- those links will still run afoul of this licensing/tax requirement. Thus, them declaring that a hyperlink is not covered is meaningless if the rest of the directive can only be read in a manner that would include nearly all links.

    Why would you assume the letters making up a hyperlink would be covered by the tax, when they say "shall not extend to acts of hyperlinking"? If I want to read it as pessimistically as possible, I might note that the transmission of a hyperlink is not part of the "act of hyperlinking"--IOW, you can make a link, you just can't share it. I don't find either of these to be reasonable interpretations of the text.

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

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2018 @ 9:49am

    Once again, it appears this amendment was written by someone who has no functional understanding of how the internet works, and thus does not realize how badly drafted this proposal is

    Or by someone who does, and they are out to destroy the Internet. Everybody knows who the suspects are, they were behind SOPA, and this is a better version by the back door.

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

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2018 @ 9:50am

    What language is the official law written in? Since the UK is (at least hypothetically) leaving the EU, perhaps French or German will have to be the governing language of the official document?

    While there should not in theory be any differences in meaning between the different translations, it's a sure bet that different interpretations of language will arise and have to be dealt with.

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

  6. icon
    John Roddy (profile), 3 Jul 2018 @ 9:52am

    Re: Links

    Look at the address bar for this article. See the part that says "latest-text-eu-copyright-directive-shows-even-worse-than-expected-must-be-stopped"? That's the article title, which this text implies is a "snippet."

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

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2018 @ 9:55am

    The EU's solution to finding needles is to burn down the haystacks.

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

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2018 @ 10:05am

    All the sudden Brixit and breaking from the EU may have a point after all...

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

  9. identicon
    TripMN, 3 Jul 2018 @ 10:07am

    The world governments need to push back by declaring these EU laws are illegal and unenforceable since they extend outside the EU and greatly impact the citizens of their own countries.

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

  10. icon
    Andrew (profile), 3 Jul 2018 @ 10:14am

    Two things come to mind. First, let's just identify all European users a la:

    lauren.vortex.com/2018/06/12/a-modest-proposal-identifying-europeans-on-the-internet-for-their-p rotection

    Second, maybe a handful of large corporate players (Google, Amazon, etc) should just publicly announce they will no longer service EU countries at all. I bet that would last about an hour before MEPs suddenly achieved enlightenment.

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

  11. icon
    Gary (profile), 3 Jul 2018 @ 10:29am

    Re: Declare

    Governments around the world are lining up to replicate this, not stop it.

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

  12. icon
    Advocate (profile), 3 Jul 2018 @ 10:40am

    Let them do it. Only terrible test cases are ever enough to make the people rebel the next time... but wait, they never do.

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

  13. icon
    ShadowNinja (profile), 3 Jul 2018 @ 10:45am

    Re: Re: Links

    Well then, either we all go back to un-intuitive numbers for our URL's, or we need sites to use complete nonsense URL's. Like 'definitely-nothing-bad-about-cats' for the URL that links to today's weather at a weather site.

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

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2018 @ 10:46am

    Re:

    Thinking the same. The EU has too much power and is using it to advance the agenda of a tiny minority rather than the for the goodwill of those it governs.

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

  15. icon
    ShadowNinja (profile), 3 Jul 2018 @ 10:47am

    Outlawing image searches?!?

    I thought it was bad enough when someone sued google to get rid of the 'View Image' button on their image search page.

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

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2018 @ 11:24am

    Re:

    I can't tell if that's satire or not... It reads like satire, but it also feels like it's actually something a dictator would write with complete sincerity.

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

  17. identicon
    Rekrul, 3 Jul 2018 @ 11:25am

    Politicians are corrupt and in the pocket of the copyright industry. Probably the only thing that would stop this is if a huge portion of the major internet companies shut off service to the EU. And not just for a day, but until this horrible proposal is permanently killed. Short of that, they're likely to vote overwhelmingly in favor of this. :(

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

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2018 @ 11:42am

    i still think the whole aim of these new 'laws' is to outlaw us, the people, and any site that is beneficial to the people as far as sharing absolutely anything is concerned. this is particularly valid when it comes to what governments, politicians, the powerful, the wealthy, the famous and all their friends are concerned! they want to know exactly what we are doing, saying, writing, reading, visiting, buying, selling, but dont want us to know anything about them and their escapades! on top of that, the entertainment industries have had their services enlisted so that the aforementioned governments dont get the revolutions that should ensue when the internet is blocked from being used by us in the manner it was designed, a free information sharing portal, the best invented so far. in return those industries, having been granted almost total immunity and carte blanche to run surveillance on everyone, everywhere, will be supplying whatever info the governments want about us in case there is any rebellion being talked about and being planned that would threaten any of those aforementioned from losing even an iota of the power they have grown to relish. the long and short of it all is we are being enslaved even more than we ever have been and an industry that relies on 'make believe' is at the center of fucking us over!!

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

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2018 @ 11:43am

    Re: Re: Links

    I get it, but don't you think that's exactly the type of claim "shall not extend to acts of hyperlinking" was meant to help us with? It's quite a tortured reading to suggest the tax does extend to hyperlinking if the hyperlink happens to have some text embedded (especially if it needs to be there to work—technically, Techdirt links are valid if the text is removed).

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

  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2018 @ 11:45am

    Re: Re: Re: Links

    Like 'definitely-nothing-bad-about-cats'

    Sure, why not?

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

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2018 @ 12:00pm

    Re:

    The last technology to cause similar problems was the Printing press, which allowed a few authors to get their works widely circulated. (I say a few authors, as the majority of the population could not get a work published due to capacity limitations in the Industry).

    All other technology leading up to the Internet, Phone Radio, film ans television, Either enabled faster and more convenient communications between two people, and over longer distances, or was a faster better printing press for the few authors able to get published via the technology.

    The Internet is potentially more revolutionary that the printing press because it allows anyone to publish their thoughts and stories, and to attract an audience away from the old publishers who rely on controlling the market to maximize their profits. Now, just like the old aristocracy, who also controlled the church by pushing spare sons in that direction) the old publishers are fighting tooth and nail to retain their control, as are politicians who can see their power being eroded by the communities that spring up on the Internet.

    I just hope that it does not require the wars and revolutions to create a new balance in society that the followed the invention of the printing press.

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

  22. identicon
    Jeffrey Grimes, 3 Jul 2018 @ 1:37pm

    Re: Seems like it's what they want

    Want to fix it? Remove the people perpetrating the problem, by force.

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

  23. icon
    John Roddy (profile), 3 Jul 2018 @ 1:40pm

    Re: Re: Re: Links

    I get it, but don't you think that's exactly the type of claim "shall not extend to acts of hyperlinking" was meant to help us with?

    Perhaps, but why is that an exception? The problem at its core is that the link tax applies by default, which is a complete change to how it is now. It shouldn't need to be something protected by a measly exception, especially when--as the article points out--everything else in the section goes to great lengths to undermine it.

    It's quite a tortured reading to suggest the tax does extend to hyperlinking if the hyperlink happens to have some text embedded

    It's quite a tortured law in the first place. There's a lot of ambiguity, and the powers behind it have done nothing to suggest they're acting in good faith. There's no reason to believe this simple little exception is going to actually fix anything.

    (especially if it needs to be there to work—technically, Techdirt links are valid if the text is removed).

    I actually did not know that about Techdirt articles. But it actually doesn't matter, since the practice of putting the title in the URL text itself is already commonplace. It might be easy to work around here, but that doesn't apply to every site. And also, the reason it's done is to make the URL easier to read. Why do we need to even start worrying about having to change that just to comply with one stupid arbitrary law?

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

  24. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2018 @ 1:42pm

    Re:

    Then you get off of your cowardly asses and remove the problem. Publicly, with extreme force.

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

  25. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2018 @ 1:59pm

    Re: Re:

    Invading the US to take out a few corporations is likely go extremely badly.

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

  26. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2018 @ 2:05pm

    In this one piece are TWO zombie "accounts" with SIX YEAR GAPS!

    Just look over the histories of "Advocate" and "Andrew". They're not long. Both over ten years old, both used two names, AND both have SIX year gaps. RE-MARK-ABLE, isn't it?

    How many other "accounts" do you suppose are ODD? Well, I have a list for good guess, but have suppressed most of the zombies. These two among the most blatant keep popping out, though. My opinion is the Zombie Master is going to trot those out until I tire of pointing them up. -- That's not going to work because they CANNOT be made "normal", they'll be ODD forever.

    Oh, and for kicker, there's "TripMN" not signed in, but the "account" of which has over 30 month gap!

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

  27. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2018 @ 2:05pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Links

    There's no reason to believe this simple little exception is going to actually fix anything.

    I believe it will fix the exact problem described in the quoted text (URL contains a "snippet"), and nothing else. Everything else you wrote is true; it's a terrible law, based on copyright maximalism rather than any intent to benefit the public.

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

  28. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2018 @ 3:00pm

    Re:

    In the end they will never take over the internet.

    Contact your MEP to stop this.

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

  29. icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), 3 Jul 2018 @ 3:28pm

    Re: In this one piece are TWO zombie "accounts" with SIX YEAR GAPS!

    Just look over the histories of "Advocate" and "Andrew". They're not long. Both over ten years old, both used two names, AND both have SIX year gaps. RE-MARK-ABLE, isn't it?

    I've asked this before, but you never seem to respond. What possible reason would there be for bringing back dead accounts? If you truly believe -- as you imply -- that we are somehow behind these accounts, why wouldn't we just create new ones?

    Anyway, as others have explained to you multiple times, there's no conspiracy here. Most people read and don't comment (as opposed to you, who comments without reading). And when they do decide to comment, their account still exists. These days, many people use password managers, so it's no surprise that old accounts still work. And if they don't, we have (like every site) the ability to update your password if you forgot your old one.

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

  30. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 3 Jul 2018 @ 7:50pm

    'This time, THIS TIME they'll blink first!"

    Yeah, they are banking hard that the major services like Google and Facebook will accept rather than pull out of the area, but with the law this insane I suspect that even major companies will consider it too risky to offer service in the EU, and if they think people are upset now just wait until Youtube, Facebook and many other sites disappear overnight for people in the EU.

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

  31. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2018 @ 9:34pm

    Abolish Copyright

    It will only get worse.

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

  32. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jul 2018 @ 2:54am

    The few dictating the many

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

  33. identicon
    Filipescu Mircea Alexandru, 4 Jul 2018 @ 3:54am

    Time for revolution

    At this point the EU is begging for a violent revolution to put it out of its misery. It's no joke to say that once this insanity were to happen, the only possible step is just such a thing. Our representatives simply don't seem to understand that this is not North Korea or Communist China.

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

  34. identicon
    Not A Troll, 4 Jul 2018 @ 5:38am

    Honestly EU has gone one step too far

    Really, EU is not a super state and should not even attempt to regulate things like this. Leave internet free, otherwise it will get as crappy as averything else socialist goverments touch.

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

  35. identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, 4 Jul 2018 @ 5:52am

    Re: Honestly EU has gone one step too far

    Was Pinochet's government any better? If so, why?

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

  36. identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, 4 Jul 2018 @ 5:52am

    Re: Re: Honestly EU has gone one step too far

    My point: Enough of the boogeyman game, already!

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

  37. icon
    The Wanderer (profile), 4 Jul 2018 @ 6:30am

    Re: Re: In this one piece are TWO zombie "accounts" with SIX YEAR GAPS!

    What possible reason would there be for bringing back dead accounts? If you truly believe -- as you imply -- that we are somehow behind these accounts, why wouldn't we just create new ones?

    Because a bunch of new accounts which happen to mirror the 'correct' views are more obviously identifiable as sock-puppets than are existing accounts with established posting histories.

    Of course, if one assumes you're willing and able to go that far, it would seem just as reasonable to assume that you could and would also retroactively create a false posting history for a new account, by inserting appropriately-dated comments into the database that stores such things; it would be more work, but also much less detectable. And if you could do that, why would you bother either resurrecting old accounts or creating new sock-puppet accounts?

    Basically, if one starts out by assuming bad faith, it's possible to find "evidence" to support a conclusion of bad faith everywhere one looks. It just requires accepting a premise, and then deciding that because the premise is correct, any evidence which would conflict with it must be invalid.

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

  38. identicon
    Trader, 4 Jul 2018 @ 1:57pm

    EU

    Game over

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

  39. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jul 2018 @ 6:34pm

    Human rights > copyrights

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

  40. icon
    TripMN (profile), 5 Jul 2018 @ 11:31pm

    Re: In this one piece are TWO zombie "accounts" with SIX YEAR GAPS!

    I knew you'd make a comment about me once you got started. Hmm... what if I told you one set of comments is on my laptop and another on my phone. I sign all of my writing, I just don't always sign in. But I'll never be able to disprove your theory so whatevs.

    The fun thing about humans is we like to see patterns even when there are none. And those who see patterns where they think they are nefarious and sneaky turn them into conspiracies. You are a conspiracist of the most inane kind.

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


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