The weird and persistently silly copyright reform process in the EU Parliament continues to get more and more bizarre and stupid. Last month, we told you about the first committee vote, which we feared would be terrible, but turned out to be only marginally stupid, as the worst parts of the proposal were rejected. Now, two more committees -- the Culture and Education (CULT) and Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committees -- have voted on their own reform proposals and the results are really, really bad if you support things like culture, education, research and the public. And, yes, I get the irony of the fact that the Culture and Education Committee in the EU just declared a giant "fuck you" to culture and education with its vote.
Among the many problematic aspects approved by these committees is a filter requirement that would block users from uploading legally obtained media into the cloud. This makes no sense -- especially given that the EU already has additional "you must be a pirate" taxes on situations where individuals are making copies of their legally acquired works.
And then there's the whole "snippet tax" which legacy newspapers are demanding because they've failed to adapt to the digital age, and they want Google News to send them money for daring to send them traffic without monetary compensation. The whole concept is backwards... and here, it's been expanded. As Copybuzz explains:
The press publishers’ right went from applying to ‘digital’ uses of press to all uses, including print. Aside from the fact that this seems a violation of Article 10(1) of the Bern Convention (which establishes a mandatory exception for ‘press summaries’), the impact of such a massive extension is unfathomable. The definition of press publications has become so broad that infringements to article 11 are impossible to predict and hence prevent. The ‘exceptions’ to the applications of this new right just add to the potential legal uncertainty, as the CULT text states ‘The [publisher] rights granted under this Directive should be without prejudice to the authors’ rights and should not apply to the legitimate uses of press publications by individual users acting in a private and non-commercial capacity. The protection granted to press publications under this Directive should apply to content automatically generated by an act of hyperlinking related to a press publication without prejudice to the legitimate use of quotations.’ This paragraph alone opens such a Pandora Box of unanswered questions, such as: What is a legitimate use of press publications? And who’s the judge of the legitimacy? When are you acting in your private and non-commercial capacity? Content automatically generated by an act of hyperlinking related to a press publication: so that mean that when you share a link on social media and that triggers automatically the appearance of a snippet, you are now officially in trouble? When are you ‘legitimately’ quoting? Is that a new criteria imposed on top of the only mandatory exception globally? And if so, who judges if you comply?
None of that sounds good or well thought out. It sounds like the kind of thing that someone not very knowledgeable about the subject would put together after just hearing one side from a bunch of whining newspaper execs.
And then there's this nonsense, as summarized by Parliament Member Julia Reda:
Incredibly, the ITRE committee – responsible for research and usually a staunch defender of open access – even voted to extend the extra copyright to academic publications, which would make open access publishing virtually impossible. It would stop people from linking to academic content, despite the content itself being free. This would apply to both online publications and print journals. The chilling effects on the spread of academic works and information would be substantial.
Yes, linking to academic content will now require payment -- even if it's open access. That's... nuts.
And, finally, on the "text and data mining" issue -- which is one of the key points that the EU has been fighting over with this new copyright reform effort, ITRE again severely limited who can do data mining to tiny startups. Again from Copybuzz:
The ITRE Committee for example has in its extreme generosity decided to leave the benefit of the Text and Data Mining exception limited to research organisations and ‘start-up companies’, defined as ‘any company with fewer than 10 employees and an annual turnover or balance sheet below €2 million and which was established not earlier than three years before benefiting from the exception’. The message for European start-ups is clear: don’t dare scale up your first three years of business if you want to mine content and if you do, move away from the EU (and move anyway after 3 years)! Never mind jobs and growth, the EU mantra we keep on hearing. Oh, and please do not be innovative any longer once you are an established player: we would not want our economy to be competitive on the international scene.
This is really a killer for innovation. There's a massive industry now being built up around machine learning and AI and autonomous machines -- and an awful lot of it actually relies on the ability to do text and data mining on the internet. With this proposal, the (of all things) "Industry & Research" committee is basically saying there shall be no such industry or research in Europe. It's pushing one of the most promising up and coming industries out of the EU entirely. Incredible.
It's almost stunning how bad these decisions were. But, of course, some of the legacy copyright industry folks decided to celebrate, claiming that the votes showed that the EU Parliament "would not tolerate free-riding platforms." That's complete nonsense and an insult. Again: things like news aggregators and search engines have been enormously helpful in creating new markets and expanding attention and traffic to sites. If anything, legacy content producers have been "free riding" on those platforms.
Hopefully saner heads will prevail as this process moves forward, but the EU seems to be going down a dark and dangerous road on copyright policy.