EU Puts An End To The Open Internet: Link Taxes And Filters Approved By Just 5 Votes

from the a-sad-day-for-the-open-internet dept

Well, it was a nice run while it lasted, but the EU Parliament has just put an end to the open internet. By the incredibly thin margin of just five votes, the Parliament voted against any amendments to the proposal -- which was a necessary step to fixing or deleting Articles 11 and 13. After that, they voted to approve the EU Copyright Directive, including the terrible versions of both Article 11 and 13. This is an inauspicious day and one that the EU will almost certainly come to regret. While we now need to see how each of the member states will implement the actual laws put forth in the Directive (meaning the damage in some states may be more mitigatable than in others), on the whole the EU Copyright Directive requires laws that effectively end the open internet as an open communications medium. Sites that previously allowed content creators to freely publish content will now be forced to make impossible choices: license all content (which is literally impossible), filter all content (expensive and failure-prone), or shut down. Sites that used to send traffic to news sources may now need to reconsider, as doing so will inexplicably require payment.

At best, the EU--for all its complaints about Google and Facebook--has just locked both companies into a dominant position. They can afford this. Others cannot. And, the legacy gatekeepers in the media and entertainment business will quickly pivot to seeking to export this model elsewhere.

The MEPs who voted for this are up for election in two months, and hopefully the EU shows them the door, but in the meantime, today is a sad day for the open internet. I am sure that some will be celebrating on the false belief that this will magically "help artists." It will not. You just handed more power to giant companies, and took it away from creators. In time, one hopes, those who mocked the protesters and activists and actual experts will come to realize just how much they destroyed today.

Filed Under: article 11, article 13, censorship, closed internet, copyright, eu, eu copyright directive, eu parliament, filters, free speech, link tax, open internet


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  1. identicon
    Bruce C., 26 Mar 2019 @ 11:04am

    A fourth option?

    It would require a complete revamping of the way internet platforms work, but it would keep platforms in business, even if it's probably what the proponents of the directive actually want to achieve.

    If platforms act more like normal "publishers" where they manually review/edit/curate content before it gets exposed on the internet, they can avoid the risks of a completely open platform while still staying in business.

    For example, say a platform has a billion user submissions in their slush pile. The platform doesn't really care which ones are successful, they just want enough of them to generate enough views to do business. So they have some sort of a crude filter for copyright and objectionable content that cuts things down by say 80%. Of the remaining 20% they can use any algorithm from a random lottery to subject-matter filtering to select candidates for manual review and potential publication. Just walk through the list until the days quota of content has been approved and published. Depending on incoming volume, they can discard the remaining items in the 20% or roll them over to the next day.

    Of course this will still destroy the open internet as we currently know it. In particular the long-tail and the spontaneous growth of memes and personal tailoring will disappear. By forcing internet platforms to become publishers, legacy publishers will restore "control" to the market and increase their power, even if they don't get a single penny from link taxes or copyright lawsuits. And the technical difficulties of crappy content filters are still there, just with less legal exposure. Algorithms can be pretty decent at detecting duplicates, but they may not be able to distinguish someone trying to flood the queue vs. a bunch of people interested in the same topic.


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