Hyperlink taxes? Meme bans? EU moves forward with massively terrible copyright regulations – Reason.com

Minions via Universal Pictures

Hyperlink licenses? Legally banned memes? This is what can happen.

A European Union plan to update copyright protection laws in the Internet age is becomes even more oppressive, and the recently released iteration of the EU copyright directive has free speech supporters seeing it in red.

Online platforms may have to look for a license (and possibly pay) just to display snippets of content when linking to articles on news sites – and any online platform that allows users uploading their own content will have to impose filters (and again, possibly, pay a lot of money) that will prevent the publication of copyrighted content.

We have noted what has been happening with Section 11 (the link tax) and Section 13 (the download filter) since last summer. It seemed that resistance to the massive scale of regulation could lead to some reforms. (Article 13 may be so broad that it prohibits people from posting memes that contain copyrighted images.) But Julia Reda, Member of the European Parliament and member of the German Pirate Party, warns that ‘they actually made it worse.

In a item Posted on his site this week, Reda says that under Article 11, as it is currently written, “Reproducing more than” single words or very short excerpts “from news articles will require a license. . This will likely cover many snippets commonly posted alongside links today to give you an idea of ​​what they lead to. We will have to wait and see how the courts interpret what “very short” means in practice – until now. there the hyperlinks (with excerpts) will be mired in legal uncertainty. ” There is no exception to this rule, and there is no opt-out process for the media to proactively declare that they are okay with people checking out their works.

This is being pushed by the big publishers, who have apparently decided to blame their financial woes on the news aggregators, rather than on the disruption of their dominance as an advertising platform. Google has warned that Article 11 won’t accomplish what these publishers think it will do, and that the end result will be making it harder for consumers to find quality news articles online. Google has experimented with producing Article 11 compliant news search pages, which essentially means linking to media without including anything that identifies content on the other end. Last week, Kent Walker, the company’s senior vice president of global affairs, warned the law will cause massive traffic losses to media sites.

But it will likely hurt small and new emerging publishers more than well-established outlets, and it probably works just fine for bigger ones.

Meanwhile, Article 13 can be disastrous enough to destroy everything. Cory Doctorow, writing on the Electronic Frontier Foundation website, notes that the new version of Section 13 requires any online platform or service to have been around for more than three years or to earn more than $ 11 million per year for it. ensure that no user posts anything that infringes copyright. Period.

This aggressively proactive demand will require platforms to implement download filters – which are both very expensive and error-prone – to check everything people post against databases of copyrighted works. copyright. If a court determines that a platform is not making enough effort to stop such downloads, the platform may be held financially responsible.

As Doctorow notes, only the biggest tech companies can afford these filters. (And even they struggle to keep copyrighted content off their sites. it is not even always clear who all the copyright holders are.) The extremely predictable result of such a broad law will be massive censorship by websites worried about the potential financial implications of failing to capture copyrighted material. No one wants to be fined in an EU court because one of your Minion memes offended lawyers at Universal Pictures. Even a dating site could be held liable if someone posts a copyrighted photo.

Needless to say, all of this has huge implications for the right to speak. We’ve already seen people (especially businesses) use copyright claims to try to scare online platforms out by removing content that criticizes them. It’s just absolutely ripe for abuse.

These regulations could still be killed. While resistance from a sufficient number of member states could block it, Reda predicts that the most likely way to stop these terrible regulations will be a full European Parliament vote in March or April. She and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are calling on voters in member countries to contact their members of the European Parliament.

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