The EU’s copyright directive: now it gets messy
And so it came to pass that the EU’s copyright directive became law
– with its most controversial elements intact. These include the ability for publishers to charge money to aggregators for link snippets, and for platforms to be liable for all piracy on their platforms.
EU member states now have two years to put the new rules into law in their own countries.
While the vast majority of the voices I follow online have opposed this directive for a long time, one group of people – many of those in the music industry – have been keen to see it pass and are now celebrating.
They believe platforms like YouTube profit from music piracy and don’t do enough to stop it, causing artists and labels to lose out at a time when life is hard enough for the industry. While I sympathise with this view, I can only think they’ll regret supporting something quite so broad and blunt as this directive.
The implications of the directive itself are bad enough…
- imagine Google News pulling out of the EU altogether because publishers choose to charge it fees for linking to them, even though those publishers get loads of traffic from Google News.
- imagine big tech companies playing along with the new rules rather than fighting them, further entrenching their dominance by giving new players less of an incentive to reach the size where many of the most controversial rules apply.
- imagine uploading a meme and then having it automatically blocked for copyright violation, then you have to appeal that block because the meme is actually allowed under the directive, then the meme gets reinstated at some point later when the moment it was funny and relevant has long passed. Online conversation is therefore broken.
As for the UK? If we do end up leaving the EU (still up in the air at the time of writing, incredibly), we wouldn’t have to implement the rules, but assuming we end up with some form of regulatory alignment with the EU, we may have to play along anyway.
There’s even a slim chance the directive might be killed this month. The EFF writes: “It’s theoretically possible that the final text will fail to gain a majority of member states’ approval when the European Council meets later this month, but this would require at least one key country to change its mind. Toward that end, German and Polish activists are already re-doubling their efforts to shift their government’s key votes.”
So there is hope this will all lead to nothing, but it’s just depressing that self-interested corporate lobbying trumped a deep understanding of the internet yet again.