EU Copyright Directive: Rich men tricks

As a company working in open source software development for business and non-profit organizations, we tell the Therp programmers to look into the code of other developers. To add good software you have to know what other existing modules do, and how they do it. More importantly, you learn from weaknesses and good ideas in the existing software which invites you to use your creativity and do it even better. As we look at the software of others, others look at ours. Expanding your mind, by getting to know and building on previous discoveries and creativity, is in our opinion an age-old best practice. Of course if you use something of somebody else, you make sure you attribute the piece to the known creator or rights holder. Yes, also open source software is copy-righted.

Our sharing and learning idea however seems to collide with the new EU Copyright Directive and especially Article 11 and Article 13. On February 13, negotiators from the European Parliament and the Council concluded negotiations with a final text.

Article 13 states that commercial sites or apps where users can post material must make “best efforts” to preemptively buy licenses for anything copyrighted that users may possibly upload. In addition, most sites will need to do everything in their power to prevent anything from ever going online that may be an unauthorized copy of a work that a rights holder has registered. Although Article 13 doesn’t explicitly mandate automated upload filters, this is the only feasible way to handle the mass of content going online all the time. They will have to deploy expensive and error-prone upload filters to prevent a court to judge them liable for infringements as if they had committed them themselves.

Article 11 states that reproducing more than “single words or very short extracts” of news stories will require a license. No exceptions will be made even for services run by individuals, small companies or non-profits.

The official idea behind the directive is to protect content creators and to secure revenues for artists that would otherwise be lost from the unauthorized use of their material on the content-sharing platforms like Youtube and Facebook. In public the big tech companies allegedly oppose the new intellectual property law.
In reality, the directive will probably only expand the power such companies already have on the internet. They not only end up selling their filtering services to smaller platforms, which can’t afford to develop their own, but also will extend their role as de facto content police. Controlling and analyzing the Internet data traffic of all relevant platforms and services. Because their filters can't recognize it properly, the only chance to escape these filters will be using satire, jokes and memes.

The other winners will be the big corporations lobbying the directive: media, music, film, and their lawyers. They can expect a lot of money from the copyright infringements decided in the courts. And the actual content creators will be even more in stranglehold of some publisher as it's the case now already.

Will seemingly opposing mayor companies win big, the legislation will harm independent and commercial creators, as well as the cultures in which they operate, says digital rights activist Hannah Machlin, who is working with Create Refresh, a group of artists and about 40 organizations, including Creative Commons and Wikimedia France. Indeed society as a whole will lose. Creating, innovating, learning, imagining, collaborating, it all starts with playing, discovering, imitating and sharing. Controlling the flow of information, music, code, movies, and thought itself, will not solve the problems of content creators, but rather hinder real progress.

We don't need to consent however. This directive will be finally voted on by the European Parliament end of March or begin of April. Until then, but not restricted to that period, you can be creative in your opposition in whatever way you feel most comfortable with, be it demonstrations, posts, letters to your MEP, signing a petition, protest songs, parody or raising awareness in your social circle.

Other sources:

Wikipedia, Corporate Europe, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Quartz, Save your Internet