EU Gives Up On The Open Web Experiment, Decides It Will Be The Licensed Web Going Forward

from the this-is-bad dept

Well, this was not entirely unexpected at this point, but in the EU Parliament earlier today, they voted to end the open web and move to a future of a licensed-only web. It is not final yet, as the adopted version by the EU Parliament is different than the (even worse) version that was agreed to by the EU Council. The two will now need to iron out the differences and then there will be a final vote on whatever awful consolidated version they eventually come up with. There will be plenty to say on this in the coming weeks, months and years, but let's just summarize what has happened.

For nearly two decades, the legacy entertainment industries have always hated the nature of the open web. Their entire business models were based on being gatekeepers, and a "broadcast" world in which everything was licensed and curated was perfect for that. It allowed the gatekeepers to have ultimate control -- and with it the power to extract massive rents from actual creators (including taking control over their copyright). The open web changed much of that. By allowing anyone to publicize, distribute and sell works by themselves, directly to end users, the middlemen were no longer important.

The fundamental nature of the internet was that it was a communications medium rather than a broadcast medium, and as such it allowed for permissionless distribution of content and communication. This has always infuriated the legacy gatekeepers as it completely undermined the control and leverage they had over the market. If you look back at nearly every legal move by these gatekeepers over the last twenty five years concerning the internet, it has always been about trying to move the internet away from an open, permissionless system back towards one that was a closed, licensed, broadcast, curated one. There's historical precedence for this as well. It's the same thing that happened to radio a century ago.

For the most part, the old gatekeepers have not been able to succeed, but that changed today. The proposal adopted by the EU Parliament makes a major move towards ending the open web in the EU and moving to a licensed, curated one, which will limit innovation, harm creators, and only serve to empower the largest internet platforms and some legacy gatekeepers. As Julia Reda notes:

Today’s decision is a severe blow to the free and open internet. By endorsing new legal and technical limits on what we can post and share online, the European Parliament is putting corporate profits over freedom of speech and abandoning long-standing principles that made the internet what it is today.

The Parliament’s version of Article 13 (366 for, 297 against) seeks to make all but the smallest internet platforms liable for any copyright infringements committed by their users. This law leaves sites and apps no choice but to install error-prone upload filters. Anything we want to publish will need to first be approved by these filters, and perfectly legal content like parodies and memes will be caught in the crosshairs.

The adopted version of Article 11 (393 for, 279 against) allows only “individual words” of news articles to be reproduced for free, including in hyperlinks – closely following an existing German law. Five years after the ‘link tax’ came into force in Germany, no journalist or publisher has made an extra penny, startups in the news sector have had to shut down and courts have yet to clear up the legal uncertainty on exactly where to draw the line. The same quagmire will now repeat at the EU level – no argument has been made why it wouldn’t, apart from wishful thinking.

This is a dark day for the open internet in the EU... and around the world. Expect the same gatekeepers to use this move by the EU to put pressure on the US and lots of other countries around the world to "harmonize" and adopt similar standards in trade agreements.

I know that many authors, musicians, journalists and other content creators cheered this on, incorrectly thinking that was a blow to Google and would magically benefit them. But they should recognize just what they've supported. It is not a bill designed to help creators. It is a bill designed to prevent innovation, lock up paths for content creators to have alternatives, and force them back into the greedy, open arms of giant gatekeepers.


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  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    End Of The World, AGAIN! Into Your Bunker!, 12 Sep 2018 @ 10:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Oh, noes! Techdirt's greatest fear: creators getting paid!

    > That all you've got, blue boy?

    No. Here's some boiler-plate for you:
    I see so much about this out_of_the_blue and how horrible he is that I just had to look up what wrote.

    Here's actual out_of_the_blue comments, not the wacky lies that "ACs" spread:

    Fundamentals of Rational Copyright.
    Somewhat redundant to clarify related aspects. Don't worry if you can't grasp these all at once: I'll be using magic to post it often.

    >>> Copyright is derived from the facts of existence; it is natural law and cannot be narrowly defined; it is self-evident like the US Constitution itself which is only valid UNDER common law; statute is at best *tertiary.*

    ) **Creators inherently have SOLE RIGHT TO COPY their work.**

    ) **Creating is and has always been more difficult than copying.**

    ) **The special provisions in law for copyright stem from the above 2 facts. It's specific setting out of "intellectual property" rights for creating works given the relative ease of copying.**

    ) Copyright specifies WHO can gain money from the works, AND that no one else is to gain money from them. (For a limited time, but after in public domain, it's still unethical to grift on the work of others; ONLY the cost of reproduction should be charged.)

    ) Copyright law is indeed exactly to prevent TWO types of THEFT (during the limited time): 1) by commercial scale copiers directly profiting 2) by the general public taking the work without rewarding creator. Only creators may make copies or attempt to gain from it during that (limited) period.

    ) There are NO rights whatsoever granted to or held by copiers. No one's "right to copy" is at any time removed or diminished because it never exists prior to the creation of a work.

    ) Morally and practically, copyright is valid because exists independently of and without conflicting anyone else's rights. -- Pirates obviously want to deny the moral basis of "I made it, therefore I own it", and for practical objection point to the increasing controls that *they* cause by stealing.

    ) Machines doing the labor of copying doesn't confer any new right to do so.

    ) Copyright has a worthwhile societal purpose to encourage the creation of various works, even if only for trivial entertainment.

    ) Many like to jeer that copyright exists only until a creation is shared with others -- after that you've no claim to it! Then anyone can take the work that you did and try to grift off its value for themselves. But that's advocating law of the jungle apply to *creators* while enabling grifters and pirates to use the very tools of civilization to STEAL the creations. It's just not FAIR. -- No one will say that laborers don't have right to the fruits of their labor (except so far as they advocate slavery, and some DO). Copyright is the SAME common law, fundamental recognition of who's due the rewards for having produced, except applies to non-material products. The creator puts in work with *hopes* of profit, relying on the stated terms of *civilized society* that the public assure monopoly for a limited time so that the very *potential* for rewards isn't stolen by either grifters or pirates.

    ) Even indirect income from in any way providing "for free" the protected work of others is clearly illegal, undeserved, immoral, and unethical.

    ) Putting entire digital movie / music files online for anyone to download is NOT sharing, not fair use, nor fair to its creators; it does remove some degree of potential profit and some degree of actual profit.

    ) Copying rights are granted by the public for the public good (or was until unilaterally changed by moneyed interests) and we all have a general duty to respect the special provisions made for creators of non-physical works.

    ) Possession of authorized physical media is license to access the content any number of times (which can be one-at-a-time library use, yet not "public" display). In the absence of physical media, there's no clear right to access content, only perhaps an authorized temporary permission. But at no time does possession of digital data confer a right to reproduce it outside of the terms and conditions as for physical media, no matter how easy it is to do so.

    ) Emphasizing an aspect of the just above point: digital data is *even less "owned"* by the purchaser than with physical media, not more.

    ) When independently rendered, fashion "ideas", "art" in general, "look and feel", jokes, bits of wit, and musical "riffs" are not copyright-able because not significant effort. Don't throw those in to confuse the topic. (Specific clarification for music: you may render "stolen" riffs to parody or add spice, but not use actual "sampled" audio as basis for your main theme.)

    ) Many persist in using the canard of "copyright can't guarantee income". -- Misleading. From the US Constitution it's been to assure creators a monopoly on the ATTEMPT at income from a given work for a limited time period. No one else has the right to even MAKE such attempt, nor to GRIFT off the content value either directly or indirectly (as a draw for eyes to advertisements).

    ) Nothing above is invalidated or weakened by results being imperfect, nor by attempts to indefinitely extend time and scope of copyright: the latter are driven by greed and should of course be resisted, but by more general means.

    ) If you advocate taking copyright away from Disney after its long abuse and extension, then FINE! -- *But don't at same time empower mega-corporations to steal creative works from the poor.* Those are not similar cases. Doing away with ALL copyright is even more criminal than the current mess. -- Make a means test for copyright, prohibit it entirely to corporations, and prevent them from raiding the public domain.

    [Last revised 17 January 2014]

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