I'm beginning to think that Axel Voss, the Member of the European Parliament in charge of ramming through the EU Copyright Directive, doesn't have much of a clue about how either copyright or the internet works. Last week, we pointed out that he was making provably false statements about Article 13, and wondered why he'd be doing that. But the more he talks, the more I'm wondering if he simply doesn't understand the basics of either copyright law or the internet. The latest comes in some quotes he gave in a great article by DW.com, which correctly highlights how Article 13 is going to lead to widespread censorship. Voss tries to defend it with some truly bizarre claims:
“We are just concentrating on platforms that are infringing on copyrighted works like YouTube. Not for dating platforms or merchandising or local social platforms. Only 1.5% of internet platforms will be affected.”
Only 1.5% of platforms will be affected? I think we're going to need to slap a giant "citation needed" on that one. According to the released text, the law will apply to the following:
‘online content sharing service provider’ means a provider of an information society service whose main or one of the main purposes is to store and give the public access to a large amount of copyright protected works or other protected subject-matter uploaded by its users which it organises and promotes for profit-making purposes. Providers of services such as not-for profit online encyclopedias, not-for profit educational and scientific repositories, open source software developing and sharing platforms, electronic communication service providers as defined in Directive 2018/1972 establishing the European Communications Code, online marketplaces and business-to business cloud services and cloud services which allow users to upload content for their own use shall not be considered online content sharing service providers within the meaning of this Directive.
The special carve-outs for "non-profit online encyclopedias, not-for profit educational and scientific repositories, open source software developing and sharing platforms" came after Wikipedia and Github pointed out how impossible Article 13 would make their future existence. Either way, the giant misunderstanding here, is that basically everything is covered by copyright. So, any site that enables user-generated content, and is a for profit entity, will "store and give access to a large amount of copyright protected works or other protected subject-matter uploaded by its users which it organizes and promotes for profit-making purposes." That's called the internet. The law clearly impacts way more than 1.5% of internet platforms.
Even more to the point: even if Voss and his allies can scrape together some nonsense by listing out all sorts of other websites that wouldn't be impacted by this, the number of websites is the wrong metric. The real question is about how much of the internet that people interact with on a daily basis would be impacted: and there the answer is a ton of it. There are a whole bunch of rankings of the "top websites" out there, but skimming through a bunch of them you see that a huge number of the most popular websites would be impacted by this: Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, YouTube, Pinterest, Linkedin, Twitch, Imgur, Pornhub, Wordpress and more. If you add in some of the top Chinese sites, it gets even bigger.
But here's the bigger issue: Voss then seems to suggest none of these sites should even exist. No, really:
“We all have legal obligations to fulfill. If you have a massive platform like YouTube you will have to use a technological solution. Everyone has these obligations. They have created a business model with the property of other people – on copyright protected works. If the intention of the platform is to give people access to copyright protected works then we have to think about whether this kind of business should exist. The new legislation is improving the situation for the European creators industry.”
Say what now? Not exist at all? This whole thing seems to be based on the false premise -- often pushed by the RIAA and MPAA -- that YouTube was solely created to allow users to upload others' professional content. That's not accurate at all. The entire basis for YouTube was to allow people to express themselves. And they do. The top channels on YouTube are not people uploading other people's infringing content, but independent creators creating their own amazing new content that wouldn't have been possible in an age before YouTube.
So how is it that Axel Voss is considered an authority on this? He doesn't seem to understand that every new work is covered by copyright, so any website that hosts user-uploaded content -- audio, video, text, images, etc. -- is subject to this law. He also doesn't seem to understand that none of these sites are built with the intent of having people upload infringing material, it's just that some segment of the population will do that. Because that's part of how the internet works. But the good from all this -- the ability for anyone to create and share their content, as well as the vast ability of people to find and discover new and amazing content -- greatly outweighs the fact that it might change the business model for a few legacy companies.
Voss' final line is a real kicker. "Improving the situation for the European creators industry." Uh, no it's not. More people are creating than ever before, and they're using the tools that Article 13 will punish to do so. When people have fewer places to share their content or to make money from their content, that's not helping creators or the "creators industry." Sure, it might help a very small number of old gatekeeper companies -- record labels, book publishers, movie studios -- be in a position to demand more money from internet companies, but thinking that those old gatekeepers represent the "creators industry" is ludicrously out of touch.
Still the fact that Voss is now admitting that the real goal behind Article 13 is to move us to a world where "maybe" YouTube "shouldn't exist," perhaps he can apologize for his comments last week in which he insisted that all he really wanted "is what already exists" and which "online platforms have already put into practice." Yes, just last week, he was saying that the rules "will not go beyond what is currently in place and things will largely remain as they are now." And this week he's saying, well, actually maybe "this kind of company should not exist."
Axel Voss seems willing to say anything, no matter how contradictory, how obviously incorrect, to push through Article 13.
Filed Under: article 13, axel voss, copyright, eu, eu copyright directive, internet platforms, user generated contentCompanies: youtube