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Two days before the EU (probably) votes to end the free internet. Should we care?

In two days, on 20th June, the European Parliament Legal Affairs Committee will vote on the proposed Copyright Directive.

By design the process by which the European Union makes laws is opaque. They would have been quite happy to slide this past the slumbering European public, but some people have woken up to the fact that it is an ill-drafted and authoritarian piece of legislation.

Opposition within the EU is being led by Julia Reda, a German Pirate Party MEP. Here is her summary page on the proposed law. Article 11, popularly called the “link tax”, and Article 13, popularly called “censorship machines”, are particularly sinister.

As it stands Article 11 would mean the end of blogging:

Anyone using snippets of journalistic online content must first get a license from the publisher. This new right for publishers would apply for 20 years after publication.

And if you think that sounds bad, wait til you see Article 13:

– Freedom of expression limited: Upload monitoring software cannot tell infringement apart from legal uses like parody, specifically enabled by exceptions and limitations to copyright. Filters also frequently malfunction. As a result, legal content will be taken down.

– Independent creators harmed: Platforms will receive instructions as to what content to automatically remove from large commercial rightholders. When independent creators have works removed by filters that are covered by exceptions or otherwise misidentified as infringing, they will effectively be deemed “guilty until proven innocent”, having to fight to have their legal creations reinstated.

– Surveillance risk: The proposal requires the installation of what amounts to surveillance technology. Due to high development costs, content monitoring technology will likely end up being outsourced to a few large US-based providers, strengthening their market position even further and giving them direct access to the behavior of all EU users of internet platforms.

– Startup killer: This requirement places a huge burden on internet companies and discourages investment in user-generated content startups, preventing EU competition to the targeted dominant US platforms from arising, effectively locking in YouTube’s dominance. (See Allied for Startups)

– Unintended targets harmed: Community projects like Wikipedia would likely need to implement such filters, even though they only accept freely-licensed uploads. Code hosting platforms would also be affected, “undermining the foundations upon which Free and Open Source Software is built”. As would scientific repositories, “undermining the foundations of Open Access”.

Interestingly, this proposed law is bitterly opposed on the usually pro-EU Reddit Europe. See this post currently “stuck” to the top of the subreddit.

There and elsewhere I have seen commenters – particularly the young, computer literate generation that are more usually seen rolling out pro-EU banners at Labour party events – state that this issue alone has turned them against the EU. At a time when both Government and Opposition waver in their resolve to stick to the result of the referendum it is at least arguable that we should be glad when the EU’s velvet glove slips to show the iron fist underneath.

I am not going to spin this out. I think we should care. Letting freedom be significantly curtailed for 450 million people for temporary political advantage and the chance to say, “I told you so” seems a poor bargain. If the EU succeeds in passing this law, Theresa May will be taking notes. Julia Reda has a “What you can do” page. For the sake of our friends in Europe, and for our own sake here in the UK, I think that if you are a UK or EU resident you should do those things.

But perhaps you disagree?

19 comments to Two days before the EU (probably) votes to end the free internet. Should we care?

  • Johnnydub

    PJW on it:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7t4J-q09ik

    Tldr – the left cant meme, so they want to ban memes.

  • Eric

    German publishers have been pushing for Article 11 for decades now. But they were the first to cry when Google removed them from search results when the Germans passed a similar law.

    I don’t see how search engines can possibly function in the EU if this passes, and I can’t see anything Microsoft and Google can do other than remove the entire EU from search results.

  • TomJ

    This would make Fisking illegal. I’m guessing this is not a bug, but a feature.

  • Mr Ecks

    Widespread disobedience is the only option.

    Difficult since they are trying to act on the middle range providers not at the level of an individual.

    Perhaps the time is coming for removing those unjustly seized by costumed thugs from the hands of said thugs.

    In the meantime get emailing and phoning quick.

    I attach copied details from an email:

    “Our MEPs will vote on the EU Copyright Directive next week and decide whether the disastrous Article 13 becomes law. Article 13 would introduce algorithmic upload filters to Internet platforms to determine which posts are seen and which get blocked.

    This threat goes far beyond copyright issues. The EU wants to apply the Robocop approach to extremism, hate speech, and anything else they think they can get away with, once they put it in place for copyright. This would be a huge step backwards for freedom of speech online and will almost certainly affect the UK despite Brexit.

    Many of you have already written letters to MEPs about this issue (thank you!). In this crucial late hour we need you to make phone calls to two particular MEPs who hold decisive votes, as the vote for and against Article 13 will be very close.

    The UK MEP who’s voting in the JURI Committee is MEP Sajjad Karim. We have no clear view on his position on Article 13 and his vote is important. Together we can put some pressure on him and perhaps get him to speak up. Today is a great time to call both of his offices as he may be in either.

    MEP Sajjad Karim

    Manchester office: 07776 144 870

    Brussels office: +32 2 28 45640

    We’re also putting pressure on UK MEP Mary Honeyball as she’s currently acting as a cheerleader for the music industry and trying to publicly convince other MEPs to vote for Article 13. She will be harder to convince but every call counts.

    MEP Mary Honeyball

    London office: No number on her website, except for a press contact’s phone number (07956 443 393)

    Brussels office: +32 2 28 45209

    Here are some helpful talking points:
    •Creativity and free speech will be harmed by Article 13 because algorithms struggle to tell the difference between infringement and the legal use of copyrighted material vital to research, commentary, parodies and more. This is far too high a cost for enforcing copyright infringement.
    •No filter can possibly review every form of content covered in the mandate including text, audio, video, images and software. Article 13’s mandate is technically infeasible.
    •It is a bad idea to make Internet companies responsible for enforcing copyright law. To ensure compliance and avoid penalty, platforms are sure to err on the side of caution and overblock.
    •To ease compliance platforms will adjust their terms of service to be able to delete any content or account for any reason. That will leave victims of wrongful deletion with no right to complain – even if their content was perfectly legal.
    •Article 13 also goes against legal bans on laws that require ‘general monitoring’ of users to protect their privacy.

    Thank you for all you do to protect digital rights.”

    Also

    “Next week the European Union’s JURI committee will decide the fate of the Internet in the EU. If the lobbyists for the big publishers have their way, every website will be forced to pay a tax for every link to news content on the web. Added to that, they want to force sites to install “censorship machines” to filter and block uploaded content1.

    This will hamper or outright break every site and service based in the EU, which means that the impact will be seen by Internet users all over the world.

    That’s why the OpenMedia community, along with our partners and other organisations across Europe2, are making one last urgent push to Save the Link and stop censorship machines.

    TWEET AT THE 9 MEPs

    Just 9 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) will decide3, so we’re tweeting them to tell them the choice is clear. Today, June 12 is the day of action across Europe to #SaveYourInternet.

    If these laws pass, it will be the end of smaller Internet operators in Europe. The automated content filtering technology the lawmakers are demanding will be hideously expensive, and will not be nearly as accurate as they claim.

    The link tax is an unprecedented assault on the free and open web, it goes to the heart of what makes the Internet so powerful — the free sharing of information.

    Even if you’re not directly represented by one of these 9 MEPs, they are deciding on a law that will affect all of us, in Europe and around the world.

    SEND A MESSAGE TO
    THESE 9 MEPs NOW

    It doesn’t matter if you’re from a country represented by one of the 9 MEPs or not, we all need to stand together to put a stop to this dangerous and destructive proposal. Send a message to an MEP today and tell them to #SaveYourInternet.

    After years of delays and debate, we’re at the critical point now. We can’t let up. Too much depends on this. Let’s take over the Internet today and make it a day the deciding MEPs can never forget.

    Yours for the open web,

    Dave, for the team at OpenMedia

    P.S A tweet will take just a minute or two of your time, but will reach the people making this crucial decision. Send a tweet today. If you don’t use Twitter, you can email the MEPs here too.

    Footnotes
    1. Article 13 could “destroy the internet as we know it”: What is it, why is it controversial and what will it mean for memes? alphr
    2. Save Your Internet. #SaveYourInternet
    3. Copyright JURI MEPs undecided. EDRi”

    Here is the tweet link

    https://savethelink.org/tweet-your-mep-saveyourinternet?src=162696

    Get cracking folks.

  • Thailover

    Anyone who isn’t a bleating sheep suffering from Stockholm Syndrome can see you this is a straight-up orwellian tactic designed to keep people oppressed, ignorant and under control.

    Of course, it’s sold to the public as a ” I’m only trying to help you” measure. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, when the government comes to help you, run the other way.

    V for Vendetta is starting to look less alien day by day.

  • Thailover

    Little civilized sheep-like protests, appealing for mercy from one’s oppressors is rather f****** lame. Unfortunately, I’m starting to see any kind of reel push back has completely ineffectual short of burning Brussels literally to ashes.

    I hope I’m wrong about that. Time will tell.

  • Niké Winged

    Thank God we are leaving (May-be).

  • Thailover

    Look around you. What you see are the minds of Everyday People going about their lives oblivious of the forces that control them. They are not ready to be unplugged. They are not ready to be red pilled. And many are so hopelessly dependent upon the system, so helplessly inured, that they’ll fight to keep their oppressors in charge.

    Are you listening to me, or are you looking at the woman in red?

  • bobby b

    “The EU wants to apply the Robocop approach to extremism, hate speech, and anything else they think they can get away with, once they put it in place for copyright.”

    As does the entire infrastructure of the internet, which is primarily owned and run by leftists. These days, in order to get a non-left message out that doesn’t actively annoy the left, you need to find an ISP that is willing to host you, you need to sign on with a Domain Registrar for entree into the DNS system, and you need some sort of security provider to knock back the DDOS attacks that are becoming more prevelant.

    In all of these areas, the providers are becoming more and more stridently leftist. Remember last year when GAB.ai got shut down by its Domain Registrar specifically for its “hate speech”, and had to scramble to find another who would accept them? They had to go to the country of Anguila before they got back on. Remember the tweets from the techies at the security firms openly declaring that the left owned the internet, and that unacceptable sites would be drowned in DDOS?

    Even if you get past these basic thresholds, you’re still not going to have a findable site if the Google fascists won’t list you in a search or if Facebook won’t allow you to market, and you’re not going to be heard if Twitter decides you’re unpalatable. So, unlike the left, the right has to moderate its message in order to remain acceptable to its leftist internet masters. Perry doesn’t ban some subjects JUST because he dislikes them – his platform depends on it.

    Face it – the internet has essentially been lost to the left. At least the EU plan screws everybody – at first, anyway.

    “Widespread disobedience is the only option.”

    What good does disobedience do if you can’t get on the internet? If I tell my kid he gets no supper until he cleans his room, he can disobey me as long as he wants, but he’s going to be very hungry.

    Until the right side of the spectrum takes an ownership position in the internet infrastructure, we’re unwelcome guests here on the sufferance of progressives.

  • -XC

    So, is this the freedom hill the UK decides to fight on?

    I ask as an American cousin.

    -XC

    PS – Wasn’t yesterday the anniversary of Churchill’s “Blood” speech?

  • Bill McCall

    The EU is a dead organism and all its officials have long been zombies. This is withdrawal from Reality. There has NEVER been anything REAL about the EU, so if it hides itself behind a curtain of its own legality it will be forever forgotten. Good riddance !

  • Paul Marks

    An alliance between the left and big business against freedom – sadly a common thing.

    Most likely a compromise will be announced – “Freedom of Speech has been saved” the Sophist lawyers will proclaim, but in reality the compromise will be one more step on the road to the destruction of what little is left of Freedom of Speech.

  • So, is this the freedom hill the UK decides to fight on?

    Who is this ‘UK’ of whom you speak? 😉

  • -XC

    @Perry – lol. That whole UK, Great Britain, and Britain thing is pretty much incomprehensible to most of the world.

    I used to own data quality for a large company and that kind of crap (Is Scotland a country? Is Washington DC a state? Is PR part of the US or the Caribbean for financial reporting purposes?) absorbed more hours than debate on the Oxford comma.

    -XC

  • Snorri Godhi

    This could prove so disastrous that they’d have to backtrack immediately.

    Another possible outcome is that people will no longer demand links to MSM articles in blog posts making allegations against the EU regime: this would be a very undesirable outcome from the point of view of said regime.

  • We should care a lot about defeating this law. As regards how to do that:

    – Partly, that is political. I am delighted to hear that it is alerting some UK young’uns to the virtues of Brexit. Snorri’s suggestions (Snorri Godhi, June 19, 2018 at 1:49 pm) remind me of why the judge had to abandon his Tommy Robinson gag order. Eric (June 19, 2018 at 1:59 am) notes that supporters of the law can be hurt when they themselves vanish from search engines.

    – Partly, that is practical. My comments in the prior post’s thread glanced very briefly at the issues of enforcement and evasion.

    If the law passes, we will doubtless in time learn more about the first.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Niall: who knows? the idea might have been inspired by my subconscious seeing the analogy to the Tommy Robinson gag order.

  • Mr Black

    As the left-overs of once great nations are content to flush their history and culture down the toilet of multi-culturalism, censorship is just a matter of time. Either official like this, or unofficial when gangs of unhappy diversity make their displeasure known in person. Let the tyrannical state get on with things, turn up the heat on that slow boiling pot and perhaps a few people might notice what is happening and decide to put a stop to it with more than words.

  • […] a committee of 25 MEPs, has voted yes to the link tax, censorship machines and meme banning bill, previously written about here by Natalie Solent. There is still a possibility it could be blocked: from The […]

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