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Techdirt on European copyright plans


EU Announces Absolutely Ridiculous Copyright Proposal That Will Chill Innovation, Harm Creativity

from the how-hard-did-they-work-to-make-it-this-bad? dept

This is not a surprise given the earlier leaks of what the EU Commission was cooking up for a copyright reform package, but the end result is here and it's a complete disaster for everyone. And I do mean everyone. Some will argue that it's a gift to Hollywood and legacy copyright interests -- and there's an argument that that's the case. But the reality is that this proposal is so bad that it will end up doing massive harm to everyone. It will clearly harm independent creators and the innovative platforms that they rely on. And, because those platforms have become so important to even the legacy entertainment industry, it will harm them too. And, worst of all, it will harm the public greatly. It's difficult to see how this proposal will benefit anyone, other than maybe some lawyers.

Not surprisingly, the EU Commission is playing up the fact that this package does knock down some geoblocking in setting up more of a "single market" for digital content, but after Hollywood started freaking out about it, that proposal got watered down so much that plenty of content will still be geo-blocked. And there's so much other stuff in here that's just really, really bad. As expected, it includes a ridiculous ancillary copyright scheme, which should really just be called the "Google tax" for linking to copyright-covered content.

The proposal does away with the liability limitations for platforms, effectively requiring any tech platform that allows user-generated/user-uploaded content to build or license their very own ContentID system. This is ridiculous. If the idea was to punish Google, this will do the opposite. Basically no startup will be able to afford this, and it will just lock in platforms like YouTube as the only option for content creators wishing to upload video. Protecting intermediary liability has been shown, time and time again, to enable new innovation and also to enable greater creativity and free speech -- and the EU Commission basically just tossed it in the garbage because some Hollywood interests think (incorrectly) that internet companies "abuse" the protections.

The EU Commission barely hides the fact that they're doing this to try to protect legacy industries while punishing innovative ones:

The Copyright Directive aims to reinforce the position of right holders to negotiate and be remunerated for the online exploitation of their content on video-sharing platforms such as YouTube or Dailymotion. Such platforms will have an obligation to deploy effective means such as technology to automatically detect songs or audiovisual works which right holders have identified and agreed with the platforms either to authorise or remove.

Newspapers, magazines and other press publications have benefited from the shift from print to digital and online services like social media and news aggregators. It has led to broader audiences, but it has also impacted advertising revenue and made the licensing and enforcement of the rights in these publications increasingly difficult.The Commission proposes to introduce a new related right for publishers, similar to the right that already exists under EU law for film producers, record (phonogram) producers and other players in the creative industries like broadcasters.

The new right recognises the important role press publishers play in investing in and creating quality journalistic content, which is essential for citizens' access to knowledge in our democratic societies. As they will be legally recognised as right holders for the very first time they will be in a better position when they negotiate the use of their content with online services using or enabling access to it, and better able to fight piracy. This approach will give all players a clear legal framework when licensing content for digital uses, and help the development of innovative business models for the benefit of consumers.

The proposal also includes a new "exception" for text and data mining -- which sounds like it could be a good thing, but even it was designed in a manner to "protect" legacy publishers, and which will seriously harm smaller innovators and researchers. The exception is only limited to those engaging in scientific research, meaning that any other kind of research that involves data mining is at risk in the EU. Basically, the EU just gave away that entire important and growing innovative industry. Almost all of the major work in AI and machine learning these days involves data mining, and the EU just told all those companies to go find a new home.

Just looking around at various European-based organizations, they're pretty much agreed that this is a complete disaster. Here's Communia, saying "this is not how you fix copyright."

Today’s proposal buries the hope for a more modern, technologically neutral and flexible copyright framework that the Commission had hinted at in its initial plans for the Digital Single Market. The proposal largely ignores crucial changes to copyright that would have benefitted consumers, users, educators, startups, and cultural heritage institutions. It also abandons the idea of a digital single market that allows all Europeans the same rights to access knowledge and culture. Finally, it completely ignores the importance of protecting and expanding the public domain.
And here's EDRi, saying that the proposal "fails at every level."

The European Commission has proposed a Copyright Directive that could not conceivably be worse. The text that was launched today includes a proposal to potentially filter all uploads to the Internet in Europe. The draft text would destroy users’ rights and legal certainty for European hosting companies. The new Directive’s proposal for a new 20-year “ancillary” copyright for “news” outlets repeats painful mistakes made in Germany and Spain, which hurt publishers and Internet users alike.

“We need a copyright reform to make Europe fit for the 21st century. We now have a proposal that is poison for European’s free speech, poison for European business and poison for creativity”, said Joe McNamee, Executive Director of European Digital Rights. “It could not conceivably be worse.”

And here's EU Parliament member Marietje Schaake, noting how wrong this approach is:
It lacks ambition and instead reads like a defence of old business models. We need a real copyright revolution instead. Publishers might have legitimate concerns about their decreasing revenues, but a retrograde reform of copyright law is not the solution.

So the EU Commission has taken the exact wrong approach. It's one that's almost entirely about looking backwards and "protecting" old ways of doing business, rather than looking forward, and looking at what benefits the public, creators and innovators the most. If this proposal actually gets traction, it will be a complete disaster for the EU innovative community. Hopefully, Europeans speak out, vocally, about what a complete disaster this would be.