Censorship algorithms, a link tax and a war on memes: EU’s Copyright Directive

The european Union’s Copyright Directive would require internet platforms to embed an automated infrastructure for monitoring and censorship into their networks

The European Parliament last week approved a broad new copyright regulation known as the EU “Copyright Directive” that could “break the internet” by forcing internet platforms to install filters that prevent copyright-protected content from being uploaded.

The burdensome legislation, which is intended to protect the digital property of digital publications, includes a handful of extremely controversial provisions. One is mandatory copyright filters that will block anything appearing in a copyright database from appearing online. And as Boing Boing notes, “anyone can add anything to the blocklists, with no penalties for abuse.”

AVN‘s Michael French astutely noted

even German EU Parliament member Axel Voss, who is considered the “father” of the new legislation, seemed unaware of all of the provisions that it contained. One section of the law, 12a, prohibits sports fans from taking pictures at sporting events—even selfies—a provision for which many large professional sports organizations have long clamored.

“I didn’t know that this was in the proposal so far, so of course I have to deal with it now,” Voss said after the bill passed.

Two other controversial portions are Articles 11 and 13. As Futurism.com reports:

Article 11 is meant to give publishers on the internet the ability to make an extra buck by imposing a “link tax.” Put simply, it’s supposed to shift some of the massive profits away from powerful news aggregators like Facebook and Google by allowing smaller publishers to charge them each time the aggregators link to their sites.

The problem? Publishers who can afford to charge news aggregators like Facebook and Google lower rates will thrive. Smaller publishers who can’t afford the cutthroat rates will be boxed out.

Article 13 forces platforms like YouTube to filter all newly uploaded content for any copyright infringing material using specially implemented algorithms. News outlets have been referring to these as “censorship machines,”; others have declared Article 13 as starting a “war on memes” since these filters could easily end up flagging the endlessly-shared, slightly-altered images.

The EU’s action came in spite of the fact that these methods have been tried before and both failed and backfired.

As AVN notes, according to an analysis by The Verge, when similar legislation “has been imposed on a national level, such as in Spain which tried taxing online ‘snippets’ of publishers’ articles in 2014, Google simply shut down its Google News service in that country. Germany also tried a ‘link tax’ law in 2013, but in that case, Google blocked links to any sites that did not agree to let their content be linked for free.”

The Electronic Freedom Foundation wrote a devastating statement in opposition to the Copyright Directive, noting that “Article 13 takes an unprecedented step towards the transformation of the Internet from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users.”

Laws such as the Copyright Directive normalize censorship and restrict internet freedom, even preventing users from being able to post links to articles from news outlets. And, as we know, when censorious programs are implemented, “disfavored speech” such as adult content will always find its way onto blocklists.

The Copyright Directive still has a ways to go before it can be implemented and enforced, and we’ll be keeping an eye out for upcoming developments.

284430cookie-checkCensorship algorithms, a link tax and a war on memes: EU’s Copyright Directive

Censorship algorithms, a link tax and a war on memes: EU’s Copyright Directive

Share This

Leave a Reply