Update 9/12/2018: The European Parliament has voted in favor of the Copyright Directive
Article 11 and 13, alongside many hundreds of added amendments are up for vote today on September 12th. Many think that theses regulatory articles–which chiefly perform as automated copyright control, could significantly impact copyright protection on the internet and severely affect how content is viewed and shared in the EU.
What are Article 11 and 13?
Article 11 and 13–known subsequently as the “link tax” and “upload filter” server two purposes. The link tax, or Article 11, would require companies like Google and Facebook to pay media companies “taxes” when linking to their articles, and the upload filter via Article 13 would require said tech companies to check content uploaded to their sites for copyrighted material. This means that if a user posts content on their site that is not theirs, Google or Facebook could be held responsible for caching it in search engine results or Facebook feeds.
Why is Article 13 Bad?
Many think that Article 13 could play out similar to how content ID does on YouTube. Copyright regulation on YouTube has been universally criticized by platform users since the automated system works by a system of automatic flagging then removal. The system reportedly cost 60 million dollars to create. But even after spending so much money on the system, there are still many faults. The system often causes legitimate content to be taken down and for revenue to be lost for creators. There are also ludicrous examples of content being taken down, from anything from NASA posting its own rover footage, to performers having their piano performances shut down.
The exorbitant cost alone required to implement copyright features required by Article 13 would hurt other sites that host content, and If a system was implemented into search engines and the internet itself alongside Article 13, competitors to Google and larger sites that monopolize hosted content would be annihilated.
“The Copyright Directive entrenches the power of dominant internet platforms, which are the only ones that can afford the automatic copyright filter,” Gus Rossi, global policy director of US nonprofit Public Knowledge, tells The Verge.
Other critics fear that the implementation of Article 13 itself is just plain sloppy. Content ID on YouTube arguably is somewhat effective, but only because “trusted right holders” can automatically add content to the database to therein remove content from videos via Content ID. But with Article 13, anyone can sign up for a “rightsholder” account on a platform and start telling the service what can or cannot be posted. If a user gets kicked off, than said user can just create an another anonymous account.
Article 13 is Bad for Everyone, it’s a Lose-Lose
Not only that, but the method that can be effective on YouTube just is too small enough to apply to the entire internet itself since users intent on subverting legitimate copyright protection can do so. As illustrated by the biggest censorship regime in the World, that being China, there are ways to circumvent automatic filters for those that want to, which would render the entire system useless.
In China, people can use various techniques like hiding text in the hue of an image or hiding text via a large amount of blobs. Similar techniques, and other techniques, can easily be applied within the confines of Article 13 to evade set up filters which means that people who want to break the filters will have little difficulty, but people who want to stay on the right side of copyright protection, could be in a tricky system, left to begging for appeals from tech giants who will inevitably be lost under a mountain of appeals. On YouTube, appeals can take weeks, and magnified on the scale of Article 13, perhaps appeals could last years or more, rendering content uploaded that is time sensitive or depending on the user’s needs to upload it, useless.
When will Article 11 and 13 Become Law?
The upload filter presents a load of problems, but the man behind the negotiations–that being Axel Voss–that will influence how the Copyright Directive gets published, is a major proponent of Article 11 and 13. Many describe Voss as a “copyright fundamentalist” and his involvement means that those fighting 11 and 13 will have an uphill battle.
As of right now, it looks like Article 11 and 13th will be published in January of 2019 in some form. It’s not clear what degree of controversy that form will cause, since it’s still not clear how many amendments will be approved or rejected.