Sunday, September 30, 2018

The European Parliament's Copyright Directive

On September 12, 2018, the European Parliament took another step towards finalizing a controversial new set of copyright laws.

This could change the Internet for everyone.

Two directives, Articles 11 and 13, have Silicon Valley and their shareholders quite concerned.
Both measures attempt to redress an imbalance at the core of the contemporary web: big platforms like Facebook and Google make huge amounts of money providing access to material made by other people, while those making the content (like music, movies, books, journalism, and more) get an ever-shrinking slice of the pie. (
These laws may change the ideas of "safe harbor" (web sites are not instantly responsible for the violations of their community)  and "fair use" (anyone can use small amounts of content from others when specific conditions are met) policies, perhaps including those that allowed the quoting of the passage above.

Profitable services such as Pintrest and Tumblr would be accountable for the copyright violations of their users, as NAPSTER had been years ago. Google and Facebook would have to invest significantly in profit sharing technology.

One argument against the laws by some is that it would change the culture of the Internet, which currently thrives on frictionless sharing and mashups.

Others believe that change may not be such a bad thing, and have the gradual effect of increasing the credibility of online content.  For example, to imply familiarity with a topic, hacks and trolls can often get away in social media with using photographs owned by strangers without their permission or knowledge. (It is more clearly illegal today when a website's editor or staff uses the photographs of others without permission, even with citations, as it would be for newspapers and magazines.) Satire and cosplay - people photographing themselves dressed up as Spiderman or JFK - would not be impacted.

Given the importance of journalism to social media, these laws may even save Google and Facebook from themselves, correcting their violation of the cardinal rule of parasites, "Don't kill the host."

If one agrees with the goal, the devil will be in the details, and one only has to look at the EU's "cookie" solution to worry about the first implementations of any laws.  Still, those that make a living or an identity from illegally aggregating the works of others may have to evolve their position.

More reading:


  1. Thanks for this analysis and resources!

  2. I suspect this will be another ongoing conversation of trying to find a good balance, like when Google's idea to make thousands of books completely available several years ago was changed to just providing snippets currently. Pointless spammy search aggregators like Pinterest add nothing - good riddance if they go away.

  3. The EU has made $billions from its shakedowns of tech giants like Apple, Microsoft and Google. Recent Directives have led to US media, e.g. the New York Times, to make their websites unavailable in the EU. Other online publishers probably don't realise that they are breaking EU laws and are risking huge fines. Hopefully, after Brexit, Britain will take a more sensible approach to internet regulation.