Back in September last year, Rick Falkvinge wrote about the launch of an important revision of the European Union’s main copyright law, which will have a massive impact on Internet users in the region and beyond. Although the stated aim of the update is to make “modern copyright rules fit for the digital age“, several proposals in the EU copyright directive are direct attacks on key elements of the Internet. Rick wrote about one of them, the so-called “Google tax”, or snippet tax, which would require search engines and possibly others to pay for using short extracts to link to articles on other sites.
That’s Article 11 of the proposed directive, but there’s another section – Article 13 – which would harm the Internet just as much. Here’s the original text, as proposed by the European Commission:
“Information society service providers that store and provide to the public access to large amounts of works or other subject-matter uploaded by their users shall, in cooperation with rightholders, take measures to ensure the functioning of agreements concluded with rightholders for the use of their works or other subject-matter or to prevent the availability on their services of works or other subject-matter identified by rightholders through the cooperation with the service providers.
Article 13 seeks to impose an obligation on all larger Internet sites that allow users to upload files – such as YouTube – to filter everything for possible copyright infringements before making them available. This is a terrible idea for several reasons.
It forces online services and sites to act as copyright police for the music, film and publishing industries, which are the sole arbiters of what should be blocked. There is no legal process involved – this all happens behind closed doors, on very unequal terms.