EU votes for copyright law. Goodbye free speech. (Or maybe not.)

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[Update] EU's 2018 Copyright Directive draft: Background, Timeline and Upcoming Events.

Postby Pegasus » Mon 20. Aug 2018, 06:44

Hey folks, how's your summer been?

I've had this thread in mind for most of mine, and not just because of Miauz' especially gloomy title :p. I've been reading up about this latest EU copyright law expansion attempt for awhile now and I found some of its remarkable twists n' developments worthy of posting here, if only to brighten up a bit the impression given that its adoption was inevitable. A mix of other priorities and summer vacation got in the way of that, but now that I've heard of some important, upcoming events, I figured it'd be an opportune time to lay out some background info and a crude timeline of what's been leading up to the surprising July 5th EU parliament vote, as well as what's coming just so people here are aware and might even be interested in participating themselves.

Background on the EU's latest Copyright expansion/overhaul attempt (2016 to now)
The EU Commission announced its plans to "modernize" copyright law around the Union around 2016 via a new Directive (the EU parliament drafts those, votes to approve them, and then member-states have to ratify 'em at their own parliaments). In focus was addressing the constant nagging from Hollywood and Big Copyright's worldwide lobbyists about the supposed Google/YouTube's "Value Gap" (i.e. revenue to record labels from YT ads being lesser than that from licensing deals with other [music] streaming sites), as well as news publishers' misguided complaints about how they weren't able to directly monetize short "blurbs" (e.g. a small frame containing a picture and 2 sentences about a story) appearing all over social media, linking people to said articles' pages. The name this proposed draft directive began being developed under was the "Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market" (DoC). Most notably among other issues, the DoC attempted to address these "problems" through its Articles 11 and 13.
Article 13 followed a "takedown-and-stay-down" concept (sought after by copyright lobbyists and regularly pitched to favourable legislators for years elsewhere in the world), which would necessitate all sites operating within EU jurisdiction to employ filters that would scan user submitted content during upload and before they even got published to ensure no parts of any post might include (parts of) copyrighted content previously designated by rightsholders as to never go up again on said sites; if previously flagged copyrighted parts did get included, the posts would get insta-blocked, regardless of contextual, Fair Use-like considerations, and their posts could also get sanctioned by the hosting site. This was quickly understood by critics to be a "censorship/upload filters" mandate by the EU, even if the draft legislation's wording carefully avoids using of the term "filter"; there's no logical alternative to implementing this kind of preemptive blocking without filters. Worse, such a change would require complex and expensive server-side software solutions (think Google's ContentID, but deployed and running on all sites, large or small) too onerous for smaller businesses, thus saddling 'em with additional financial burdens in order to stay compliant with this prospective law.
As for the news blurbs monetizing part, for context, a similar idea was pursued locally via legislation in Spain back in 2014 (as in some kind of tax going to news publishers) and it blew up in their faces when Google and other big tech sites simply decided to discontinue services, such as Google News, for their Spanish visitors. Ignoring the crucial fact that online news outlets indirectly benefit from footfall being driven to them by such social media blurbs/embeds (thus increasing their local ad revenue), Article 11 of the DoC expands and solidifies news publishers' rights in that area, making such blurbs infringing unless some kind of mass licensing deal would be brokered beforehand between online news pubs and the popular tech platforms blurbs appear on - thus, the rise of the "link tax".
There's plenty of bones to pick in terms of how the DoC attempts to "rebalance" corporate and civil rights online, but, needless to say, the typical Web surfer did not react with much appreciation to either measure of the draft, as they can seriously impact both the way we generally discover and pursue news online, as well as our opportunity to express ourselves on various sites online without concerns of undue pre-censure, all imposed for the speculative benefit of a few corporations' interests.
To name but one big issue here, what rightsholders knowingly conflate when they talk about a "Value Gap", or when they put that term on the mouths of friendly politicians to spout regularly as if it's any kinda looming crisis, is that sites hosting user-generated content (like YouTube) and sites doing commercial, licensed distribution (like Spotify) serve fundamentally different causes even if there's some overlap on the content they offer, percentage-wise. Regulating them with the same set of legal requirements would remove the existing margin that's fundamental for all of us to be able to convey our thoughts, ideas and criticisms of issues in our lives, copyrighted works included, without a need for pre-approval by said works' owners on the de facto major popular platform that exist for this purpose nowadays. If the thousands of DMCA abuses over the years are any indication, putting upload filters on all EU sites would be a privilege that rightsholders would be guaranteed from Day One to abuse in order to silence any kinda speech they wouldn't approve of or just for the sake of petty marketing. In other words, their speculative missing revenue is our fair use breathing space, and they've been gunning to snatch that for a good 2-3 years now under the "value gap" rationalization.
The only consistently opposing voice against Copyright lobbyists' latest attempt to further encroach on EU citizens' digital civil liberties after ACTA and the famous public shellacking it provoked back in 2012, has been the German Pirate Party's (sole remaining) member in the EU Parliament, Julia Reda, and she has been raising hell about this for awhile now. Expect me to cite her a bunch of times in the timeline below :).

EU's DoC notable 2018 events
- June 2018: The EU Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) adopted Article 13's proposal by Rapporteur Axel Voss (MEP, DE-CDU/EPP), 15 for, 10 against. Article 11 similarly passed by a 13-12 slim majority, paving the way for the DoC as a whole to move ahead to a EU Parliament plenary vote the next month.

- July 5th: After a massive backlash of comments by ordinary people, activists and prominent legal, tech sector and academic figureheads alike, European Parliament's plenary rejected the draft law, 278 in favor and 318 against.
In case you regard a free and open Internet as part of your political interests and feel like holding your MEPs accountable for how they voted on this matter, here's some helpful visualized info on that:

Plenary vote overview:
Source: TorrentFreak.

Breakdown by EU Parliament party totals:

Voting MEP lists:
(Feb. 2019 edit: previous 2 links dead, unifying in a new one)

+ means in favour of the Proposal as is.
- means in favour of a full plenary debate and possibility to vote on changes in the 2nd week of September 2018.
0 means MEP abstained.

Source here (p.7), visualization by Julia Reda (MEP, DE-PPEU/Greens).

Breakdown by Country:
Visualization by GSchizas, r/Europe (Reddit).

- While I've never found online petitions to be any kind of effective means of pressure or persuasion, it bears noting that for the past two months, one such petition against this EU Directive and Articles 11 and 13 in particular, has also managed to gather nearly a million signatures.

What's next
Although the July 5th EU Parliament plenary vote was a fortunate surprise and a setback for corporate lobbyists, no doubt the result of many MEPs getting inundated with calls and emails from angry constituents, we've yet to reach an ACTA-styled, definitive conclusion to this fight. Beyond downplaying the mass reaction as some kind of fake/astroturfed, Google-orchestrated propaganda to deceive the crowds on mass media, and even calling for a criminal investigation for not getting their way at the plenary vote, you can be sure that Big Copyright still has a few tricks up its sleeve ready to be played, so proactiveness and striking while the proverbial iron is hot is the name of the game.
Ahead of the September 12th EU parliament vote on how to proceed with the Copyright Directive, Julia Reda and the entire coalition of activists opposing the DoC have called for next Sunday, August 26th to be #SaveYourInternet Action Day. There will be live protests in more than 20 EU cities and the objective will be to show that ordinary Europeans won't tolerate these kind of corporatist agenda-driven, competition- and free speech-eroding machinations playing out behind their backs just because a few MEPs got their consciences surgically removed or their palms greased.

You can find the map with cities near you where events have already been scheduled for that day here, and it will be updated when more are added. If you haven't already made plans and feel like your stake in having our open and public-serving Internet remain unfucked is as important as the corporations think theirs is in maximizing profits, you could do worse than show up for an hour or two next Sunday in one of those spots near you and raise your voice with everyone else there, just to give our political representatives in Strasbourg something to think about come the next month - especially considering many of them will be seeking to get re-elected in 2019, too ;).

Here's the gist of the message on what's gonna go down from Julia Reda herself to wrap this up:

More updates from her on this at her site and Twitter account.

No doubt the fight is still going on and it's likely to get even dirtier as the September deliberations approach. Rather than adopt a downbeat outlook though, and just wait to be rolled over, I think a more optimistic attitude is in order, fueled by awareness of past achievements and what the Internet has meant for all of us. With that in mind, here's hoping this fight turns out to be the next great chapter in Europeans speaking out and defending our Internet after the [in]famous 2012 ACTA backlash that got 'em to roll back their plans and sent 'em packing for years :)!

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Re: EU votes for copyright law. Good bye free speech

Postby Pegasus » Sun 26. Aug 2018, 14:42

El bumpo.

"Save Your Internet" Day is today, and protests around EU cities have already started taking place. Many of them are scheduled for early afternoon, local times in these cities, so look for 'em 'round that time of day. You can also get a sense of what's going on from home by following the #SaveYourInternet Twitter tag.

In case any of you do drop by one of those - and you should, as there's sadly no better reminder to corporate bastards and sold out MEPs to keep their censorship filters and news blurb toll booths off of our Internet than people physically showing up and protesting those greedy plans en masse - don't forget to snap a few pics too to share with the rest of us ;).

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EU votes for copyright law. Good bye free speech

Postby Pegasus » Tue 22. Jan 2019, 01:41

There's been fresh news on this legislative roller-coaster front again, so lemme catch you up first on what's been going on with Article 11, Article 13 and the EU's overall messy Copyright Directive that's been worked on for nearly 3 years now to overhaul copyright across the union since last time.

- The August 26 #SaveYourInternet rallies turned out to be a very meek event, with unimpressive numbers of people in most cities showing up and pictures of largely empty city squares n' only a few people holding placards around stalls and tables here or there making the rounds on social media. The campaign was ridiculed online by rightsholders and their allies as evidence of little support among the public subsequently and being mostly "Google-funded online scaremongering". The various Pirate Parties were strangely absent and silent, too, as was any support from the major online tech companies that one would reasonably expect to oppose copyright infringement liability being massively shifted towards the hosting platforms big n' small, with all the pre-filtering that would require to become Article 13-compliant.

- On September 12th, the EU Parliament plenary session on adopting the JURI committee's recommendation voted, after numerous amendments and revisions that still would make upload filters necessary (except for services with sub-50 employees), and endorsed both the Article 11 and Article 13 proposal; for the latter 438 MEPs were in favour, 226 against, 39 abstained. Consternation and frustration lingered in the air on the opposing side for awhile after that.
Feb. 2019 edit: Vote breakdown per EU coalition (Source: Reda's Twitter account), Vote breakdown per EU country (Source:, via "NoFaTe" Twitter account), Vote breakdown for German MEPs (Source: Martin Sonneborn's Twitter account).

- Ever the self-serving backstabber, Google took some time to sit down n' think what would be best for itself, priced in all the possible costs from Article 13's impact and decided in November that, "hey, you know what, we're actually cool with upload filters, seeing how that'll instantly make us the only law-abiding game in town, and send the entire local competition into a desperate scramble to find some ContentID-like tech with which to scan all their platforms' new uploads. Guess which U.S. company has two thumbs and will be happy to lease their field-tested solution as middleware for all of those European sites, getting a double advantage from the deal without ever even having lobbied for it :)".

- Rounds of trilogue negotiations between the EU Parliament leadership, the EU Council (that's basically the 27 countries' heads of state) and the Commission were supposed to be scheduled next for sometime in December, a more "closed doors" step towards ratification, but then more noise started being generated on social media and elsewhere online as awareness about the approaching impact to freedom of expression from the upload filters started to spread, in large part thanks to German Pirate/Green MEP Julia Reda. Negotiations were postponed for January.

- In their hasty efforts to square the circle, buff out rough edges, allay growing concerns and shield numerous parties from unintended consequences, lawmakers applied even more compromising amendments, watering down some of Article 13's proposals to the point where large movie and TV industry spokespeople, as well as some music groups, started complaining that the upcoming CoD now stood to make things worse for them! The only lobbying agenda point that, they said, was still being partly addressed was the one regarding Youtube and the so-called "value gap", which would only benefit some music companies, while supposedly solidifying protections for online platforms elsewhere; other Big Copyright factions began blasting the draft legislation as ineffectual, asking for their specific industries (film, TV, and others) to be excluded from it. Naturally, passing any kinda controversial legislation during an election year for MEPs would be a high-wire act, especially one that risks angering large, dormant parts of the populace that might otherwise just ignore those elections, but here the lobbyists they were trying to cater to were now also getting mad.

- Parallel to all the above during mid-December, activists were gearing up to deliver 4 million signatures gathered online to protest Article 13 to the EU Parliament. (And no, this exception still doesn't change the fact that online petitions are meaningless tempter tantrums by entitled, overgrown children.) Also by this point, most tech platforms started getting vocal about their opposition to Article 13, and, having drawn much ire from YT users and content creators, so did Google, making a U-Turn and proclaiming the draft legislation was poised to "undermine the creative economy."

- With Article 13 having an ever-growing bulls-eye of public outrage stuck on its back, the only official who's actually staked his political future on it getting passed, the JURI Committee's special rapporteur and draft law sponsor Axel Voss, decided in mid-January that the best course of action was to release a "Q and A" page so as to dispel widespread rumours and misunderstandings, and it was such a staggering sample of dishonest spin and bullshittery that it's worth your time to read Techdirt editor Mike Masnick's blow-by-blow dismanting of it here just for the laughs it'll provoke.

With the ground having unexpectedly started to give way under the MEPs' feet and after completely different initial calculations - just another favour to another lobbying group for some quick extra cash n' goodwill to boost their election profile - they are now facing the prospect of trying to pass through, along with the other EU branches, something that looks like almost nobody wants and what that might do to their May re-election hopes. Many among the individual countries' own politicians are starting to hear more noise about this whole damn Article 13 business, and are sweating about it themselves. Which brings us to the latest "war report", straight from the correspondent's mouth: wrote:18.01.2019
Copyright negotiations hit a brick wall in Council

Today, Council firmly rejected the negotiating mandate that was supposed to set out Member States’ position ahead of what was supposed to be the final negotiation round with the European Parliament, Politico reports. National governments failed to agree on a common position on the two most controversial articles, Article 11, also known as the Link Tax, and Article 13, which would require online platforms to use upload filters in an attempt to prevent copyright infringement before it happens.

A total of 11 countries voted against the compromise text proposed by the Romanian Council presidency earlier this week: Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Finland and Slovenia, who already opposed a previous version of the directive, as well as Italy, Poland, Sweden, Croatia, Luxembourg and Portugal. With the exception of Portugal and Croatia, all of these governments are known for thinking that either Article 11 or Article 13, respectively, are insufficiently protective of users’ rights. At the same time, some rightsholder groups who are supposed to benefit from the Directive are also turning their backs on Article 13.

This surprising turn of events does not mean the end of Link Tax or censorship machines, but it does make an adoption of the copyright directive before the European elections in May less likely. The Romanian Council presidency will have the chance to come up with a new text to try to find a qualified majority, but with opposition mounting on both sides of the debate, this is going to be a difficult task indeed.

The outcome of today’s Council vote also shows that public attention to the copyright reform is having an effect. Keeping up the pressure in the coming weeks will be more important than ever to make sure that the most dangerous elements of the new copyright proposal will be rejected.


As a result of all that, today’s round of final negotiations was canceled, causing yet another delay.

We're not quite to a 2012-like, ACTA-tier public blowback point yet, as the fight's still going on and things can still go wrong, but there is hope. Detached people who decided to legislate a system they so clearly don't understand, away so long from public scrutiny or equitable opportunity for feedback and influence from other EU society stakeholders, all for the sake of transatlantic (or local) corporate favour, may yet fail to get their way, with all the ruinous consequences that could bear for the average EU citizen's online civil rights, including freedom of expression without prejudiced, Fair Use-obliterating filtering. Think I might amend the thread's title ever so slightly to reflect this latest turn of events.

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