Vera Jourova is the European Commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality. Once she opened a Facebook account. It did not go well. Jourova said at a news conference:
For a short time, I had a Facebook account. It was a channel of dirt. I didn't expect such an influx of hatred. I decided to cancel the account because I realised there will be less hatred in Europe after I do this.
Jourova's words carry more weight than most. She has a policy beef with Facebook, and also the means to enforce it. Jourova says Facebook's terms of service are misleading, and has called upon the company to clarify them. In a post Thursday on
that other channel of dirt, Twitter.com, she said:
I want #Facebook to be extremely clear to its users about how their service operates and makes money. Not many people know that Facebook has made available their data to third parties or that for instance it holds full copyright about any
picture or content you put on it.
Jourova says European authorities could sanction Facebook next year if it doesn't like what it hears from the company soon. I was quite clear that we cannot negotiate forever, she said at the news conference. We need to see the result.
Vera Jourova is the European Commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality has condemned a series of hard-hitting front pages in the British press after a recent Sun headline described Europe's leaders as 'EU Dirty Rats'.
Jourová bad mouthed media again in a press release saying:
Media can build the culture of dialogue or sow divisions, spread disinformation and encourage exclusion.
The Brexit debate is the best example of that. Do you remember the front page of a popular British daily calling the judges the 'enemy of the people'? Or just last week, the EU leaders were called 'Dirty Rats' on another front page.
Fundamental rights must be a part of public discourse in the media. They have to belong to the media. Media are also instrumental in holding politicians to account and in defining the limits of what is 'unacceptable' in a society.
Offsite Comment: Now the EU wants to turn off the Sun
They dream of stopping populism by curbing press freedom.
The European Commission has come up with a new way to prevent people backing Brexit -- not by winning the argument, but by curbing press freedom . They want to stop the British press encouraging hatred of EU leaders and judges, and impose a
European approach of smart regulation to control the views expressed by the tabloids and their supposedly non-smart readers.
China has complained to Sweden over a satirical news show on Swedish state television that advised Chinese tourists how to avoid culture clashes. China complained that the show insulted the Chinese people.
The satirical programme Svenska Nyheter (Swedish News), was aired a week after police removed three Chinese citizens from a Stockholm hotel. Local media reported they had refused to leave the hotel despite the fact they were not booked to
Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement:
The [Svenska Nyheter] anchor's remarks are full of discrimination, prejudice and provocation against China and other ethnic groups, completely deviating from professional media ethics. We strongly condemn this.
Fifteen EU-based regulators plus Washington State have made a joint declaration while Australian based study likens loot boxes to gambling, not baseball cards
Fifteen EU gambling regulators from the UK, Ireland, France, Austria, Poland, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Spain, the Isle of Man, Malta, Portugal, Jersey, Norway, and the Netherlands plus US representation from the Washington State Gambling
Regulator published the letter, noting their concerns with the business model.
In addition to the loot box problem, the letter addresses how it will take on websites that let players either gamble or sell in-game items like skins or weapons with real-world money.
One of the signatories, Neil McArthur, CEO of the UK Gambling Commission said:
We have joined forces to call on video games companies to address the clear public concern around the risks gambling and some video games can pose to children. We encourage video games companies to work with their gambling regulators and take
action now to address those concerns to make sure that consumers, and particularly children, are protected.
The letter speaks of the groups concerns but does not detail the direction sthat the group will take in reacting to the concerns.
According to VentureBeat, a study conducted by the Australian Parliament's Environment and Communications References Committee showed that there were links between loot box spending and problematic gambling. The population sample size was 7500
The more severe a gamers' problem gambling was, the more likely they were to spend large amounts of money on loot boxes. These results strongly support claims that loot boxes are psychologically akin to gambling, said the report, conducted by Dr.
David Zendle and Dr. Paul Cairns.
In a statement, the pair added loot boxes could potentially act as an introduction to gambling or take advantage of gambling disorders. They note that the industry tends to brush off loot boxes as similar to harmless products like baseball cards,
football/soccer stickers, and products along those lines.
In related news games maker EA could face legal issues for ignoring a ruling by the Belgian government to remove the Ultimate Team portion from FIFA 18.
The National Secular Society has said Ireland's impending referendum on its blasphemy law should prompt global action in defence of free speech on religion.
On Tuesday evening the Dail, the lower house of the Oireachtas (Ireland's parliament), ratified a proposal to hold a referendum on the issue on Friday 26 October. The decision passed through the house unopposed.
The upper house, the Seanad, is expected to pass the legislation on Thursday.
Currently Ireland's constitution says:
The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law. The referendum will propose removing the word blasphemous from that article.
The minister for justice Charlie Flanagan said while the offence remained in the constitution, Ireland would be seen as keeping company with those who do not share the fundamental values we cherish such as belief in freedom of conscience and
NSS chief executive Stephen Evans urged Ireland to take a stand for free speech when the referendum takes place:
Repealing the reference to blasphemy from Ireland's constitution would be a welcome declaration of Ireland's changing attitude to religious privilege and a statement of support with free thinkers globally.
Ireland's referendum should prompt global action in defence of free speech on religion. It should send a message to the rest of the world: offending religious sensibilities is not a crime, and the world will not tolerate those who persecute
people for their thoughts and words.
The play Stitching , has opened at the Unifaun Theatre in Malta for a two week run. But Stitching is not your average piece of theatre; it's taken 10 years, international coverage, and even a literal EU court case to get this show up and
Ten years ago, in October 2008, local theatre producer Adrian Buckle sent an email to playwright Anthony Nielson, asking for permission to produce his play Stitching in Malta. Nielson duly granted Unifaun the rights to a performance of his play.
Buckle booked a slot at a local theatre, hires the cast and informs the Board for Film and Stage Classification in order expecting to be issued an age-rating certificate for the piece. However, instead of receiving an age certification, Buckle
received a certificate that simply stated the play had been Banned and disallowed, with no explanation or reason provided. Thus begins a ten-year-long battle that finally brings us to this year's production.
However, the team at Unifaun would not stand for this lack of explanation; they chased for an answer, and in January 2009 the police commissioner delivered a letter that detailed the reasons:
Blasphemy against the State Religion
Obscene contempt for the victims of Auschwitz
An encyclopaedic review of dangerous sexual perversions leading to sexual servitude
Abby's eulogy to the child murderers Fred and Rosemary West
Reference to the abduction, sexual assault and murder of children
In conclusion, the play is a sinister tapestry of violence and perversion where the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. The Board feels that in this case the envelope has been pushed beyond the limits of public
The censorship became major news in Malta and it was decided by the politicians at the time that the established censorship system was no longer compatible with EU human rights requirements, notably Article 10 of the Convention for the Protection
of Human Rights:
Freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of such a society, one of the basic conditions for its progress and for the development of every man [...] it is applicable not only to 'information' or 'ideas' that are
favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also to those that offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population.
The country's censorship laws were rewritten without calling on the services of stage censors. Film censorship was also reformed with new rules that are based on the UK's, which is at least significantly more free than before.
Yes, the play is crude. Yes, they swear a lot. Yes, they talk about child murderers. Yes, they use a dildo on stage. Yes, they describe sexual acts very explicitly. Yes, it probably made people very uncomfortable. That is why performances are
given an age certification. That is not reason to censor and an artist.
Three performances have passed so far and the world has not ended. Nobody has walked out of the theatre mid-performance in a fit of rage.
Tech companies that fail to remove terrorist content quickly could soon face massive fines. The European Commission proposed new rules on Wednesday that would require internet platforms to remove illegal terror content within an hour of it being
flagged by national authorities. Firms could be fined up to 4% of global annual revenue if they repeatedly fail to comply.
Facebook (FB), Twitter (TWTR) and YouTube owner Google (GOOGL) had already agreed to work with the European Union on a voluntary basis to tackle the problem. But the Commission said that progress has not been sufficient.
A penalty of 4% of annual revenue for 2017 would translate to $4.4 billion for Google parent Alphabet and $1.6 billion for Facebook.
The proposal is the latest in a series of European efforts to control the activities of tech companies.
The terror content proposal needs to be approved by the European Parliament and EU member states before becoming law.
The National Secular Society has called for Spain to abolish its blasphemy laws following the detainment of an actor accused of offending religious sentiment.
Willy Toledo, a cinema and television actor, was detained under a Madrid court order after he ignored summons for questioning, arguing he had not committed any offence and so there is no need to appear before a judge.
Toledo was summoned twice over a Facebook post he wrote in July 2017, in which he defended three women who were
prosecuted under blasphemy laws because they simulated a religious procession with a giant plastic vagina as part of a feminist protest. In his post Toledo said:
I shit on God, and I have enough shit left over to shit on the dogma of the sanctity and virginity of the Virgin Mary. This country is unbearably shameful.
In response, the Spanish Association of Christian Lawyers filed a complaint against Toledo for shitting on the dogma, and because his words were an offense against religious sentiment.
Following his release form the court Toledo told reporters:
I am doing what I have to do, which is to draw attention to this, because it is shameful that there are still five articles in the criminal code related to religious sentiments.
Dozens of Spanish citizens applauded and shouted Me cago en Dios (I shit on God) as he left the courthouse. Some Twitter users have started using the hashtag #MeCagoEnDios to express their support. Oscar-winner Javier Bardem has also spoken out
in defence of Toledo.
Stephen Evans, Executive Director at the National Secular Society, joined in the criticism of Spain's blasphemy laws saying:
The existence of a law that outlaws offending or derision of religious feelings, dogmas, beliefs or rituals shames Spain. Blasphemy laws are an affront to free expression and should be consigned to history. Let's hope the arrest of Willy Toledo
precipitates the demise of Spain's arbitrary restrictions on speech.
Note that the expression shit on God (cagarse en Dios) is commonplace in everyday Spanish discourse.
Article 525 of the Spanish Penal Code forbids the defamation of any individual's or group's religious sentiments, beliefs, or practices, setting out monetary fines for those who offend religious people. The law tends to be used to defend Catholic
The European Parliament has voted to approve new copyright powers enabling the big media industry to control how their content is used on the internet.
Article 11 introduces the link tax which lets news companies control how their content is used. The target of the new law is to make Google pay newspapers for its aggregating Google News service. The collateral damage is that millions of
websites can now be harangued for linking to and quoting articles, or even just sharing links to them.
Article 13 introduces the requirements for user content sites to create censorship machines that pre-scan all uploaded content and block anything copyrighted. The original proposal, voted on in June, directly specified content hosts use
censorship machines (or filters as the EU prefers to call them). After a cosmetic rethink since June, the law no longer specifies automatic filters, but instead specifies that content hosts are responsible for copyright published. And of course
the only feasible way that content hosts can ensure they are not publishing copyrighted material is to use censorship machines anyway. The law was introduced, really with just the intention of making YouTube and Facebook pay more for content from
the big media companies. The collateral damage to individuals and small businesses was clearly of no concern to the well lobbied MEPs.
Both articles will introduce profound new levels of censorship to all users of the internet, and will also mean that there will reduced opportunities for people to get their contributions published or noticed on the internet. This is simply
because the large internet companies are commercial organisations and will always make decisions with costs and profitability in mind. They are not state censors with a budget to spend on nuanced decision making. So the net outcome will be to
block vast swathes of content being uploaded just in case it may contain copyright.
An example to demonstrate the point is the US censorship law, FOSTA. It requires content hosts to block content facilitating sex trafficking. Internet companies generally decided that it was easier to block all adult content rather than to try
and distinguish sex trafficking from non-trafficking sex related content. So sections of websites for dating and small ads, personal services etc were shut down overnight.
The EU however has introduced a few amendments to the original law to slightly lessen the impact an individuals and small scale content creators.
Article 13 will now only apply to platforms where the main purpose ...is to store and give access to the public or to stream significant amounts of copyright protected content uploaded / made available by its users and
that optimise content and promotes for profit making purposes .
When defining best practices for Article 13, special account must now be taken of fundamental rights, the use of exceptions and limitations. Special focus should also be given to ensuring that the burden on SMEs remain
appropriate and that automated blocking of content is avoided (effectively an exception for micro/small businesses). Article 11 shall not extend to mere hyperlinks, which are accompanied by individual words (so it seems links are safe, but
quoted snippets of text must be very short) and the protection shall also not extend to factual information which is reported in journalistic articles from a press publication and will therefore not prevent anyone from reporting such factual
Article 11 shall not prevent legitimate private and non-commercial use of press publications by individual users .
Article 11 rights shall expire 5 years after the publication of the press publication. This term shall be calculated from the first day of January of the year following the date of publication. The right referred to in
paragraph 1 shall not apply with retroactive effect .
Individual member states will now have to decide how Article 11 is implemented, which could create some confusion across borders.
At the same time, the EU rejected the other modest proposals to help out individuals and small creators:
No freedom of panorama. When we take photos or videos in public spaces, we're apt to incidentally capture copyrighted works: from stock art in ads on the sides of buses to t-shirts worn by protestors, to building facades claimed by architects
as their copyright. The EU rejected a proposal that would make it legal Europe-wide to photograph street scenes without worrying about infringing the copyright of objects in the background.
No user-generated content exemption, which would have made EU states carve out an exception to copyright for using excerpts from works for criticism, review, illustration, caricature, parody or pastiche.
A final round of negotiation with the EU Council and European Commission is now due to take place before member states make a decision early next year. But this is historically more of a rubber stamping process and few, if any, significant
changes are expected.
However, anybody who mistakenly thinks that Brexit will stop this from impacting the UK should be cautious. Regardless of what the EU approves, the UK might still have to implement it, and in any case the current UK Government supports many of
the controversial new measures.
Despite waves of calls and emails from European Internet users, the European Parliament today voted to accept the principle of a universal pre-emptive copyright filter for content-sharing sites, as well as the idea that news publishers should
have the right to sue others for quoting news items online -- or even using their titles as links to articles. Out of all of the potential amendments offered that would fix or ameliorate the damage caused by these proposals, they voted for worst
on offer .
There are still opportunities, at the EU level, at the national level, and ultimately in Europe's courts, to limit the damage. But make no mistake, this is a serious setback for the Internet and digital rights in Europe.
It also comes at a trepidatious moment for pro-Internet voices in the heart of the EU. On the same day as the vote on these articles, another branch of the European Union's government, the Commission, announced plans to introduce a new regulation
on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online . Doubling down on speedy unchecked censorship, the proposals will create a new removal order, which will oblige hosting service providers to remove content within one hour of being
ordered to do so. Echoing the language of the copyright directive, the Terrorist Regulation aims at ensuring smooth functioning of the digital single market in an open and democratic society, by preventing the misuse of hosting services for
terrorist purposes; it encourages the use of proactive measures, including the use of automated tools.
Not content with handing copyright law enforcement to algorithms and tech companies, the EU now wants to expand that to defining the limits of political speech too.
And as bad as all this sounds, it could get even worse. Elections are coming up in the European Parliament next May. Many of the key parliamentarians who have worked on digital rights in Brussels will not be standing. Marietje Schaake, author of
some of the better amendments for the directive, announced this week that she would not be running again. Julia Reda, the German Pirate Party representative, is moving on; Jan Philipp Albrecht, the MEP behind the GDPR, has already left Parliament
to take up a position in domestic German politics. The European Parliament's reserves of digital rights expertise, never that full to begin with, are emptying.
The best that can be said about the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive, as it stands, is that it is so ridiculously extreme that it looks set to shock a new generation of Internet activists into action -- just as the DMCA, SOPA/PIPA
and ACTA did before it.
If you've ever considered stepping up to play a bigger role in European politics or activism, whether at the national level, or in Brussels, now would be the time.
It's not enough to hope that these laws will lose momentum or fall apart from their own internal incoherence, or that those who don't understand the Internet will refrain from breaking it. Keep reading and supporting EFF, and join Europe's
powerful partnership of digital rights groups, from Brussels-based EDRi to your local national digital rights organization . Speak up for your digital business, open source project, for your hobby or fandom, and as a contributor to the global
This was a bad day for the Internet and for the European Union: but we can make sure there are better days to come.
MEPs approve copyright law requiring Google and Facebook to use censorship machines to block user uploads that may contain snippets of copyright material, including headlines, article text, pictures and video
The European Parliament has approved a disgraceful copyright law that threatens to destroy the internet as we know it.
The rulehands more power to news and record companies against Internet giants like Google and Facebook. But it also allows companies to make sweeping blocks of user-generated content, such as internet memes or reaction GIFs that use copyrighted
material. The tough approach could spell the end for internet memes, which typically lay text over copyrighted photos or video from television programmes, films, music videos and more.
MEPs voted 438 in favour of the measures, 226 against, with 39 abstentions. The vote introduced Articles 11 and 13 to the directive, dubbed the link tax and censorship machines.
Article 13 puts the onus of policing for copyright infringement on the websites themselves. This forces web giants like YouTube and Facebook to scan uploaded content to stop the unlicensed sharing of copyrighted material. If the internet
companies find that such scanning does not work well, or makes the service unprofitable, the companies could pull out of allowing users to post at all on topics where the use of copyright material is commonplace.
The second amendment to the directive, Article 11, is intended to give publishers and newspapers a way to make money when companies like Google link to their stories.Search engines and online platforms like Twitter and Facebook will have to pay a
license to link to news publishers when quoting portions of text from these outlets.
Following Wednesday's vote, EU lawmakers will now take the legislation to talks with the European Commission and the 28 EU countries.
On Wednesday, the EU will vote on whether to accept two controversial proposals in the new Copyright Directive; one of these clauses, Article 13, has the potential to allow anyone, anywhere in the world, to effect mass, rolling waves of
censorship across the Internet.
The way things stand today, companies that let their users communicate in public (by posting videos, text, images, etc) are required to respond to claims of copyright infringement by removing their users' posts, unless the user steps up to
contest the notice. Sites can choose not to remove work if they think the copyright claims are bogus, but if they do, they can be sued for copyright infringement (in the United States at least), alongside their users, with huge penalties at
stake. Given that risk, the companies usually do not take a stand to defend user speech, and many users are too afraid to stand up for their own speech because they face bankruptcy if a court disagrees with their assessment of the law.
This system, embodied in the United States' Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and exported to many countries around the world, is called notice and takedown, and it offers rightsholders the ability to unilaterally censor the Internet on
their say-so, without any evidence or judicial oversight. This is an extraordinary privilege without precedent in the world of physical copyright infringement (you can't walk into a cinema, point at the screen, declare I own that, and get the
movie shut down!).
But rightsholders have never been happy with notice and takedown. Because works that are taken down can be reposted, sometimes by bots that automate the process, rightsholders have called notice and takedown a game of whac-a-mole , where they
have to keep circling back to remove the same infringing files over and over.
Rightsholders have long demanded a notice and staydown regime. In this system, rightsholders send online platforms digital copies of their whole catalogs; the platforms then build copyright filters that compare everything a user wants to post to
this database of known copyrights, and block anything that seems to be a match.
Tech companies have voluntarily built versions of this system. The most well-known of the bunch is YouTube's Content ID system, which cost $60,000,000 to build, and which works by filtering the audio tracks of videos to categorise them.
Rightsholders are adamant that Content ID doesn't work nearly well enough, missing all kinds of copyrighted works, while YouTube users report rampant overmatching, in which legitimate works are censored by spurious copyright claims: NASA gets
blocked from posting its own Mars rover footage; classical pianists are blocked from posting their own performances , birdsong results in videos being censored , entire academic conferences lose their presenters' audio because the hall they
rented played music at the lunch-break--you can't even post silence without triggering copyright enforcement. Besides that, there is no bot that can judge whether something that does use copyrighted material is fair dealing. Fair dealing is
protected under the law, but not under Content ID.
If Content ID is a prototype, it needs to go back to the drawing board. It overblocks (catching all kinds of legitimate media) and underblocks (missing stuff that infuriates the big entertainment companies). It is expensive, balky, and
It's coming soon to an Internet near you.
On Wednesday, the EU will vote on whether the next Copyright Directive will include Article 13, which makes Content-ID-style filters mandatory for the whole Internet, and not just for the soundtracks of videos--also for the video portions, for
audio, for still images, for code, even for text. Under Article 13, the services we use to communicate with one another will have to accept copyright claims from all comers, and block anything that they believe to be a match.
This measure will will censor the Internet and it won't even help artists to get paid.
Let's consider how a filter like this would have to work. First of all, it would have to accept bulk submissions. Disney and Universal (not to mention scientific publishers, stock art companies, real-estate brokers, etc) will not pay an army of
data-entry clerks to manually enter their vast catalogues of copyrighted works, one at a time, into dozens or hundreds of platforms' filters. For these filters to have a hope of achieving their stated purpose, they will have to accept thousands
of entries at once--far more than any human moderator could review.
But even if the platforms could hire, say, 20 percent of the European workforce to do nothing but review copyright database entries, this would not be acceptable to rightsholders. Not because those workers could not be trained to accurately
determine what was, and was not, a legitimate claim--but because the time it would take for them to review these claims would be absolutely unacceptable to rightsholders.
It's an article of faith among rightsholders that the majority of sales take place immediately after a work is released, and that therefore infringing copies are most damaging when they're available at the same time as a new work is released
(they're even more worried about pre-release leaks).
If Disney has a new blockbuster that's leaked onto the Internet the day it hits cinemas, they want to pull those copies down in seconds, not after precious days have trickled past while a human moderator plods through a queue of copyright claims
from all over the Internet.
Combine these three facts:
Anyone can add anything to the blacklist of copyrighted works that can't be published by Internet users;
The blacklists have to accept thousands of works at once; and
New entries to the blacklist have to go into effect instantaneously.
It doesn't take a technical expert to see how ripe for abuse this system is. Bad actors could use armies to bots to block millions of works at a go (for example, jerks could use bots to bombard the databases with claims of ownership over the
collected works of Shakespeare, adding them to the blacklists faster than they could possibly be removed by human moderators, making it impossible to quote Shakespeare online).
But more disturbing is targeted censorship: politicians have long abused takedown to censor embarrassing political revelations or take critics offline , as have violent cops and homophobic trolls .
These entities couldn't use Content ID to censor the whole Internet: instead, they had to manually file takedowns and chase their critics around the Internet. Content ID only works for YouTube -- plus it only allows trusted rightsholders to add
works wholesale to the notice and staydown database, so petty censors are stuck committing retail copyfraud.
But under Article 13, everyone gets to play wholesale censor, and every service has to obey their demands: just sign up for a rightsholder account on a platform and start telling it what may and may not be posted. Article 13 has no teeth for
stopping this from happening: and in any event, if you get kicked off the service, you can just pop up under a new identity and start again.
Some rightsholder lobbyists have admitted that there is potential for abuse here, they insist that it will all be worth it, because it will get artists paid. Unfortunately, this is also not true.
For all that these filters are prone to overblocking and ripe for abuse, they are actually not very effective against someone who actually wants to defeat them.
Let's look at the most difficult-to-crack content filters in the world: the censoring filters used by the Chinese government to suppress politically sensitive materials. These filters have a much easier job than the ones European companies will
have to implement: they only filter a comparatively small number of items, and they are built with effectively unlimited budgets, subsidized by the government of one of the world's largest economies, which is also home to tens of millions of
skilled technical people, and anyone seeking to subvert these censorship systems is subject to relentless surveillance and risks long imprisonment and even torture for their trouble.
Those Chinese censorship systems are really, really easy to break , as researchers from the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab demonstrated in a detailed research report released a few weeks ago.
People who want to break the filters and infringe copyright will face little difficulty. The many people who want to stay on the right side of the copyright --but find themselves inadvertently on the wrong side of the filters--will find
themselves in insurmountable trouble, begging for appeal from a tech giant whose help systems all dead-end in brick walls. And any attempt to tighten the filters to catch these infringers, will of course, make it more likely that they will block
A system that allows both censors and infringers to run rampant while stopping legitimate discourse is bad enough, but it gets worse for artists.
Content ID cost $60,000,000 and does a tiny fraction of what the Article 13 filters must do. When operating an online platform in the EU requires a few hundred million in copyright filtering technology, the competitive landscape gets a lot more
bare. Certainly, none of the smaller EU competitors to the US tech giants can afford this.
On the other hand, US tech giants can afford this (indeed, have pioneered copyright filters as a solution , even as groups like EFF protested it ), and while their first preference is definitely to escape regulation altogether, paying a few
hundred million to freeze out all possible competition is a pretty good deal for them.
The big entertainment companies may be happy with a deal that sells a perpetual Internet Domination License to US tech giants for a bit of money thrown their way, but that will not translate into gains for artists. The fewer competitors there are
for the publication, promotion, distribution and sale of creative works, the smaller the share will be that goes to creators.
We can do better: if the problem is monopolistic platforms (and indeed, monopolistic distributors ), tackling that directly as a matter of EU competition law would stop those companies from abusing their market power to squeeze creators.
Copyright filters are the opposite of antitrust, though: it will make the biggest companies much bigger, to the great detriment of all the little guys in the entertainment industry and in the market for online platforms for speech.
Many thanks to my local MEP Athea McIntyre who responded to my email about the rise of the censorship machines
I appreciate your concerns regarding the new Copyright reform proposals. However, the objective of Article 13 is to make sure authors, such as musicians, are appropriately paid for their work, and to ensure that platforms fairly share revenues
which they derive from creative works on their sites with creators. I will be voting for new text which seeks to exclude small and microenterprise platforms from the scope and to introduce greater proportionality for SMEs.
In the text under discussion, if one of the main purposes of a platform is to share copyright works, if they optimise these works and also derive profit from them, the platform would need to conclude a fair license with the rightholders, if
rightholders request this. If not, platforms will have to check for and remove specific copyright content once this is supplied from rightholders. This could include pirated films which are on platforms at the same time as they are shown at the
cinema. However, if a platform's main purpose is not to share protected works, it does not optimise copyright works nor to make profit from them, it would not be required to conclude a license. There are exemptions for online encyclopaedias
(Wikipedia), sites where rightholders have approved to the uploading of their works and software platforms, while online market places (including Ebay) are also out of the scope.
Closing this value gap is an essential part of the Copyright Directive, which Secretary of
State Matthew Hancock supports addressing . My Conservative colleagues and I support the general policy justification behind it, which is to make sure that platforms are responsible for their sites and that authors are fairly rewarded and
incentivised to create work. Content recognition will help to make sure creators, such as song writers, can be better identified and paid fairly for their work. Nevertheless, this should not be done at the expense of users' rights. We are
dedicated to striking the right balance between adequately rewarding rightholders and safeguarding users' rights. There are therefore important safeguards to protect users' rights, respect data protection, and to make sure that only proportionate
measures are taken.
I will therefore be supporting the mandate to enter into trilogue negotiations tomorrow so that the Directive can become law.
[Surely one understand that musicians are getting a bit of a rough deal from the internet giants and one can see where McIntyre is coming from. However it is clear that little thought has been made into how rules will
pan out in the real profit driven world where the key take holders are doing their best for their shareholders, not the European peoples. It is surely driving the west into poverty when laws are so freely passed just to do a few nice things,
whilst totally ignoring the cost of destroying people's businesses and incomes].
Offsite Comment: ...And from the point of view of the internet giants
ARTICLE 19 is leading a coalition of international human rights organisations, who will tell the European Court of Justice (CJEU) that the de-listing of websites under the right to be forgotten should be limited in order to protect global
freedom of expression. The hearing will take place on September 11 with a judgment expected in early 2019.
The CJEU hearing in Google vs CNIL is taking place after France's highest administrative court asked for clarification in relation to the 2014 ruling in Google Spain. This judgment allows European citizens to ask search engines like Google to
remove links to inadequate, irrelevant or ... excessive content -- commonly known as the right to be forgotten (RTBF). While the content itself remains online, it cannot be found through online searches of the individual's name.
The CJEU has been asked to clarify whether a court or data regulator should require a search engine to de-list websites only in the country where it has jurisdiction or across the entire world.
France's data regulator, the Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertes (CNIL) has argued that if they uphold a complaint by a French citizen, search engines such as Google should not only be compelled to remove links from google.fr
but all Google domains.
ARTICLE 19 and the coalition of intervening organisations have warned that forcing search engines to de-list information on a global basis would be disproportionate. Executive Director of ARTICLE 19, Thomas Hughes said:
This case could see the right to be forgotten threatening global free speech. European data regulators should not be allowed to decide what Internet users around the world find when they use a search engine. The CJEU must limit the scope of the
right to be forgotten in order to protect the right of Internet users around the world to access information online.
ARTICLE 19 argues that rights to privacy and rights to freedom of expression must be balanced when it comes to making deciding whether websites should be de-listed. Hughes added:
If European regulators can tell Google to remove all references to a website, then it will be only a matter of time before countries like China, Russia and Saudi Arabia start to do the same. The CJEU should protect freedom of expression not set
a global precedent for censorship.
In exactly one week, the European Parliament will hold
a crucial debate and vote on a proposal
so terrible , it can only be called an extinction-level event for the Internet as we know it.
At issue is the text of the new EU Copyright Directive, which updates the 17-year-old copyright regulations for the 28 member-states of the EU. It makes a vast array of technical changes to EU copyright law, each of which has stakeholders rooting
for it, guaranteeing that whatever the final text says will become the law of the land across the EU.
The Directive was pretty uncontroversial, right up to the day last May when the EU started enforcing the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a seismic event that eclipsed all other Internet news for weeks afterward. On that very day, a
German MEP called Axl Voss quietly changed the text of the Directive to
reintroduce two long-discarded proposals -- "Article 11" and "Article 13" -- proposals that had been evaluated by the EU's own experts and dismissed as dangerous and unworkable.
Under Article 11 -- the " link tax " -- online services are banned from allowing links to news services on their platforms unless they get a license to make links to the news; the rule does not define "news service" or
"link," leaving 28 member states to make up their own definitions and leaving it to everyone else to comply with 28 different rules.
Under Article 13 -- the " censorship machines " -- anyone who allows users to communicate in public by posting audio, video, stills, code, or anything that might be copyrighted -- must send those posts to a copyright enforcement
algorithm. The algorithm will compare it to all the known copyrighted works (anyone can add anything to the algorithm's database) and censor it if it seems to be a match.
These extreme, unworkable proposals represent a grave danger to the Internet. The link tax means that only the largest, best-funded companies will be able to offer a public space where the news can be discussed and debated. The censorship
machines are a gift to every petty censor and troll (just claim copyright in an embarrassing recording and watch as it disappears from the Internet!), and will add hundreds of millions to the cost of operating an online platform, guaranteeing
that Big Tech's biggest winners will never face serious competition and will rule the Internet forever.
That's terrible news for Europeans, but it's also alarming for all the Internet's users, especially Americans.
The Internet's current winners -- Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Amazon -- are overwhelmingly American, and they embody the American regulatory indifference to surveillance and privacy breaches.
But the Internet is global, and that means that different regions have the power to export their values to the rest of the world. The EU has been a steady source of pro-privacy, pro-competition, public-spirited Internet rules and regulations, and
European companies have a deserved reputation for being less prone to practicing "
surveillance capitalism " and for being more thoughtful about the human impact of their services.
In the same way that California is a global net exporter of lifesaving emissions controls for vehicles, the EU has been a global net exporter of privacy rules, anti-monopoly penalties, and other desperately needed corrections for an Internet that
grows more monopolistic, surveillant, and abusive by the day.
Many of the cheerleaders for Articles 11 and 13 talk like these are a black eye for Google and Facebook and other U.S. giants, and it's true that these would result in hundreds of millions in compliance expenditures by Big Tech, but it's money
that Big Tech (and only Big Tech) can afford to part with. Europe's much smaller Internet companies need not apply.
It's not just Europeans who lose when the EU sells America's tech giants the right to permanently rule the Internet: it's everyone, because Europe's tech companies, co-operatives, charities, and individual technologists have the potential to make
everyone's Internet experience better. The U.S. may have a monopoly on today's Internet, but it doesn't have a monopoly on good ideas about how to improve tomorrow's net.
The global Internet means that we have friends and colleagues and family all over the world. No matter where you are in the world today, please take ten minutes to get in touch with two friends in the EU , send them this article, and then
ask them to get in touch with their MEPs by visiting
Save Your Internet .
There's only one Internet and we all live on it. Europeans rose up to kill
ACTA , the last brutal assault on Internet freedom, helping Americans fight our own government's short-sighted foolishness; now the rest of the world can return the favor to our friends in the EU.
Back in 2001, the European Parliament came together to pass regulations and set up copyright laws for the internet, a technology that was just finding its footing after the dot com boom and bust. Wikipedia had just been born, and there were 29
million websites. No one could imagine the future of this rapidly growing ecosystem -- and today, the internet is even more complex. Over a billion websites, countless mobile apps, and billions of additional users. We are more interconnected than
ever. We are more global than ever. But 17 years later, the laws that protect this content and its creators have not kept up with the exponential growth and evolution of the web.
Next week, the European Parliament will decide how information online is shared in a vote that will significantly affect how we interact in our increasingly connected, digital world. We are in the last few moments of what could be our last
opportunity to define what the internet looks like in the future. The next wave of proposed rules under consideration by the European Parliament will either permit more innovation and growth, or stifle the vibrant free web that has allowed
creativity, innovation, and collaboration to thrive. This is significant because copyright does not only affect books and music, it profoundly shapes how people communicate and create on the internet for years to come.
This is why we must remember the original objective for this update to the law: to make copyright rules that work for better access to a quickly-evolving, diverse, and open internet.
The very context in which copyright operates has changed completely. Consider Wikipedia, a platform which like much of the internet today, is made possible by people who act as consumers and creators. People read Wikipedia, but they also write
and edit articles, take photos for Wikimedia Commons, or contribute to other Wikimedia free knowledge projects. Content on Wikipedia is available under a free license for anyone to use, copy, or remix.
Every month, hundreds of thousands of volunteers make decisions about what content to include on Wikipedia, what constitutes a copyright violation, and when those decisions need to be revised . We like it this way -- it allows people, not
algorithms, to make decisions about what knowledge should be presented back to the rest of the world.
Changes to the EU Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market could have serious implications for Wikipedia and other independent and nonprofit websites like it.
The internet today is collaborative and open by nature. And that is why our representatives to the EU must institute policies that promote the free exchange of information online for everyone.
We urge EU representatives to support reform that adds critical protections for public domain works of art, history, and culture, and to limit new exclusive rights to existing works that are already free of copyright.
The world should be concerned about new proposals to introduce a system that would automatically filter information before it appears online. Through pre-filtering obligations or increased liability for user uploads, platforms would be forced to
create costly, often biased systems to automatically review and filter out potential copyright violations on their sites. We already know that these systems are historically faulty and often lead to false positives. For example, consider the
experience of a German professor who
repeatedly received copyright violation notices when using public domain music from Beethoven, Bartók, and Schubert in videos on YouTube.
The internet has already created alternative ways to manage these issues. For instance, Wikipedia contributors already work hard to catch and remove infringing content if it does appear. This system, which is largely driven by human efforts, is
very effective at preventing copyright infringement.
Much of the conversation surrounding EU copyright reform has been dominated by the market relationships between large rights holders and for-profit internet platforms. But this small minority does not reflect the breadth of websites and users on
the internet today. Wikipedians are motivated by a passion for information and a sense of community. We are entirely nonprofit, independent, and volunteer-driven. We urge MEPs to consider the needs of this silent majority online when designing
copyright policies that work for the entire internet.
As amendments to the draft for a new Copyright Directive are considered, we urge the European Parliament to create a copyright framework that reflects the evolution of how people use the internet today. We must remember the original problem
policymakers set out to solve: to bring copyright rules in line with a dramatically larger, more complex digital world and to remove cross-border barriers. We should remain true to the original vision for the internet -- to remain an open,
accessible space for all.
In July MEPs voted down plans to fast-track the Copyright Directive, derailing Article 13's plan to turn Internet platforms into copyright enforcers.
Yet the fight to stop Article 13's vision of the Internet - one where all speech is approved or rejected by an automated upload filter - is not over.
On 12 September MEPs will vote once again, but this time as of yet unknown amendments will be added to the mix. Bad ideas like Article 13 - and perhaps worse - will be voted on individually, so it's not a simple up or down vote. To identify and
oppose bad amendments, MEPs must understand exactly why Article 13 threatens free speech.
Many MEPs are undecided. Please write to them now. You can use the points below to construct your own unique message. IF YOU'RE OUTSIDE THE UK use this tool instead:
Oppose changes to Internet platform liability. If platforms become liable for user content, they will have no choice but to scan all uploads with automated filters.
Say no to upload filters. Filters struggle to identify the vital legal exceptions to copyright that enable research, commentary, creative works, parody and more. Poor judgement means innocent speech gets blocked along with copyright
Internet companies do not make good copyright enforcers. To avoid liability penalties, platforms will err on the side of caution and over-block.
Free speech takes precedence over copyright. Threatening free expression is way too high a price to pay for the sake of copyright enforcement.
General monitoring of all content is technically infeasible. No filter can possibly review every form of content covered in Article 13's extraorindarily wide mandate which includes text, audio, video, images and software.
If you are part of a tech business, or a creator, like a musician, photographer, video editor or a writer, let your MEP know!
We need copyright reform that does not threaten free expression The controversial Copyright Directive is fast approaching another pivotal vote on 12 September. For the third time in half a year MEPs will decide whether Article 13 -
or something even worse - will usher in a new era, where all content is approved or rejected by automated gatekeepers.
Seen through an economic lens the Directive's journey is viewed as a battle between rights holders and tech giants. Yet a growing chorus of ordinary citizens, Internet luminaries, human rights organisations and creatives have rightly expanded the
debate to encompass the missing human dimension.
Open Rights Group opposes Article 13 - or any new amendments proposing similar ideas - because it poses a real threat to the fundamental right to free speech online.
Free speech defenders claimed a victory over industry lobbyists this summer when MEPs rejected plans to fast-track the Directive and a lasting triumph is now in reach. UK residents are in an especially strong position to make a difference because
many of their MEPs remain undecided. Unlike some other EU states, voting patterns aren't falling strictly on party lines in the UK.
This time new amendments will be added, and the underlying principles of Article 13 will again face a vote. They include:
Changes to Internet platform liability
If Internet platforms become directly liable for user content, they will become de facto copyright enforcers. This will leave them little choice but to introduce general monitoring of all user content with automated filters. Companies are not fit
to police free speech. To avoid penalties they will err on the side of caution and over-block user content.
The Implicit or explicit introduction of upload filters
Everything we know about automated filters shows
they struggle to comprehend context. Yet identifying the vital legal exceptions to copyright that enable research, commentary, creative works, parody and more requires a firm grasp of context. An algorithm's poor judgement will cause
innocent speech to be routinely blocked along with copyright violations.
The introduction of general monitoring
General monitoring of all user content is a step backwards for a free and open Internet. It is also technically infeasible to monitor every form of content covered in Article 13's extraordinarily wide mandate which includes text, audio, video,
images and software.
Outspoken Article 13 cheerleader Axel Voss MEP said "Censorship machines is not what we intend to implement and no one in the European Parliament wants that." This is what happens when copyright reform is pursued with little
consideration to human rights.
The proposals within Article 13 would change the way that the Internet works, from free and creative sharing, to one where anything can be removed without warning, by computers. This is far too high a price to pay for copyright enforcement. We
need a copyright reform which does not sacrifice fundamental human and digital rights.
Dutch right-wing leader Geert Wilders has cancelled his Prophet Mohammed cartoon contest after receiving credible death threats. He said in a statement:
I have decided to cancel the competition to avoid the risk of making people victims of Islamist violence. I don't want Muslims to use the cartoon competition as an excuse for Islamist violence.
He added that those against the cartoon event see not only me, but the entire Netherlands as a target.
It is surely a retreat for the western ideals of free speech but generally most are happy that a trigger point for violence has been voided. Tom Rogan commented in the Washington Examiner:
Unfortunately, this ideal is increasingly under threat in the West. And while it's true that Islamic extremists continue to deter and intimidate contravening voices in the name of tolerance, the major threat to Western free speech takes root in
an alignment of leftist and centrist voices. These voices and their lobbying efforts in government and in the private sector put forward the notion that emotion is more important than ideas. And the ideal that some ears are more equal than
others. Here, I speak of the politicians who censor speech on the great commons of social media, of the leftist celebrities who assert that it is good to punch Nazis, and of the academics who believe historic wrongs are resolved by histrionic
It is these Western authoritarians veiled in liberal cloaks that Wilders has yielded to. But it is not just these. By now presenting himself as a martyr for free expression, Wilders will be able to attract more moderate Dutch voters to his
political cause. And considering that Wilders controls the second-largest political party in the Dutch parliament, his political potential here is obvious. We should not wish for that outcome. Wilders, after all, is a prejudiced man who seeks
his own aggrandisement before all else.
In 15 days' time, MEPs will again vote on censorship machines and link tax in copyright proposals of Article 13. The legislation would see platforms such as YouTube compelled to introduce upload filters, to prevent unlicensed content being
offered to the public. A new 'Love Music' campaign, bankrolled by powerful industry players, aims to ensure a thumbs-up from MEPs. But the opposition is out, in force.
In 2016, the European Commission announced plans to modernize EU copyright law, something that was to later develop into a worldwide controversy. A major part of the proposal is Article 13, a text that aims to make online services liable for
uploaded content unless they take effective and proportionate measures to prevent copyright infringements. The implication is that platforms such as YouTube would be compelled to implement upload filtering and then proactively monitor to prevent
future infringing uploads.
The #LOVEMUSIC campaign site asks visitors to add their signature to the Make Internet Fair petition, which calls on EU decision-makers to recognize that platforms like YouTube are involved in reproducing and making our works available under
copyright laws and ensure that the safe harbor non-liability regime does not apply to them as it is meant for technical intermediaries only.
While most protests are taking place on the Internet, the platform that will be most affected by Article 13, opponents of the proposed legislation have been urged to gather in public too. Julia Reda MEP previously published details of a day of
action to take place yesterday in various locations around Europe, but that will be just the tip of the protest iceberg as September 12th draws closer.
Following their shock defeat in July, major players in the music industry called foul, claiming that the protests had been automated and organized by big tech, something addressed by Reda recently. She wrote:
They're claiming the protest was all fake, generated by bots and orchestrated by big internet companies. According to them, Europeans don't actually care about their freedom of expression.
We don't actually care about EU lawmaking enough to make our voices heard. We will just stand idly by as our internet is restricted to serve corporate interests.
To prove these predictions wrong, one of the focal points of the 'NO' campaign is a
Change.org petition . At the time of writing it has in excess of 951,000 signatories, with the million target probably just a few days away.
But it is not just the music companies that are 'Love Censorship'. Journalists from 20 countries joined the call for European MPs to approve the censorship proposals. News companies also see the article 13 censorship rules as helping them to
claim more money from the internet giants.
An open letter signed by more than 100 prominent journalists from major news outlets warns that the internet companies are fleecing of the media of their rightful revenue was morally and democratically unjustifiable. The letter written by AFP
foreign correspondent Sammy Ketz says:
We have become targets and our reporting missions cost more and more. Yet, even though (the media) pay for the content and send the journalists who will risk their lives to produce a trustworthy, thorough and diverse news service, it is not they
who reap the profits but the internet platforms, which help themselves without paying a cent.
It is as if a stranger came along and shamelessly snatched the fruits of your labour.
Critics, however, argue the reform will lead to blanket censorship by tech platforms that have become an online hub for creativity, especially YouTube. They say it will also restrict the usage of memes and remixes by everyday internet surfers.
Unfortunately the numbers taking to the street in protests yesterday weren't too great. Between 80 and 150 people came to the protest in Berlin, according to various estimates, but most other events seemed to have fewer than two dozen. Based on
photographs shared online, it seems that all of the protests combined drew between 500 and 800 people in total.
It would be foolish to expect a million people to take to the streets over copyright legislation, and the lack of protest doesn't prove that Europeans don't object to Article 13. Certainly, some do. But the actual number seems smaller than hoped.
Internet companies will have to delete content claimed to be extremist on their platforms within an hour or face being fined, under new censorship plans by the European Commission.
The proposals will be set out in draft regulation due to be published next month, according to The Financial Times.
Julian King, the EU's commissioner for security, told the newspaper that Brussels had not seen enough progress, when it came to the sites clamping down on terror-related material.
Under the rules, which would have to be agreed by a majority of EU member states, the platforms would have an hour to remove the material, a senior official told the newspaper.
The rules would apply to all websites, regardless of their size. King told the FT:
The difference in size and resources means platforms have differing capabilities to act against terrorist content and their policies for doing so are not always transparent.
All this leads to such content continuing to proliferate across the internet, reappearing once deleted and spreading from platform to platform.
Of course the stringent requirements are totally impractical for small companies, and so no doubt will further strengthen the monopolies of US companies with massive workforces.
And of course a one hour turn around gives absolutely no one time to even consider whether the censorship requests are fair or reasonable and so translates into a tool for direct state censorship of the internet.
Kanata, an upcoming French play exploring Canadian Indigenous history, was cancelled on 26 July after some of the show's producers pulled out of the project following 'aggressive controversy'.
There were no Indigenous actors cast in the Robert Lepage-directed production about fictional relationships between Indigenous Canadians and Europeans spanning 200 years.
It was set to debut at the Théâtre du Soleil in Paris this December.
The production created in a little controversy in France due to politically correct concerns about the depiction of Indigenous peoples. The controversy led to North American co-producers pulling out.
Lepage's production company Ex Machina then said in a statement:
Without their financial support, we are unable to finish creating Kanata with Théâtre du Soleil. Therefore, we are putting an end to the project.
Théâtre du Soleil described the "attempted intimidation of theatre artists" in its accompanying statement:
An intimidation unimaginable in a democratic country, that is carried out largely on social media networks in the name of an ideology that the Théâtre du Soleil does not wish to qualify here but to which it will respond with its own tools.
The next Wolfenstein game might not even need to remove Adolf Hitler's moustache. Germany's Entertainment Software Self-Regulation Body (or USK), an independent, industry-funded board that oversees age and content ratings for videos games
available in the country, announced on Thursday that it will now permit the sale of games featuring Nazi imagery within the country, something that had previously been banned. The USK's decision reportedly came after a heated debate involving the
Nazi-killing Wolfenstein series , particularly a pair of anti--Third Reich games in 2014 and 2017 that were visibly, and somewhat humorously , self-censored in Germany in order to avoid violating a provision of the country's constitution.
Previously, video games with Nazi symbolism were heavily censored or outright banned based on the German criminal code's Section 86a , which forbids the use of symbols, flags, insignia, uniforms, slogans, propaganda, and greetings relating to
unconstitutional organizations in German products. Section 86a violations could be met with up to three years of imprisonment or a hefty fine.
USK will now assess games on a case-by-case basis to determine if they meet a reinterpreted standard of the country's social adequacy clause that allows for Nazi imagery if it serves one of the following purposes: artistic, scientific, or if it
depicts current or historical events. This metric is currently used for films screened in Germany because they are considered works of art.
Germany's highest court last week upheld legislation that offers Wi-Fi operators immunity from acts carried out by third-party users.
The decision by the Federal Court of Justice now makes it easier for individuals and businesses to offer Wi-Fi without fearing civil prosecution for acts of copyright infringement committed by others.
Prior to the ruling, because of the legal concept known as Störerhaftung, or interferer's liability, a third party who played no deliberate part in someone else's actions could be held responsible for them. As a result, Wi-Fi hot spots are
few and far between in Germany. Visitors from abroad have found themselves shut out at public venues and unable to access the web like they could in other countries.
Copyright holders are still able to get court orders requiring WiFi providers to block copyright infringing websites.
In a judgment handed down 17 July 2018, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) criticised Russia for its exceptionally severe treatment of punk band Pussy Riot following the group's protest performance at a Moscow cathedral in 2012.
The court found Russia committed multiple violations of the European Convention on Human Rights when it detained, tried, convicted and jailed three Pussy Riot members--Mariya Alekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich.
The trio was arrested after their performance on 21 February 2012 for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred. They remained in pre-trial detention before being convicted and jailed six months' later.
The Russian trial court found that the women's actions had been offensive and insulting because they wore brightly coloured clothes and balaclavas, waved their arms, kicked their legs around and used obscene language.
Alekhina and Tolokonnikova spent one year and nine months behind bars, while Ms Samutsevich served approximately seven months in jail before her sentence was suspended.
The ECHR said in its judgment the band members had been subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment because of overcrowded conditions while being transported to and from the courtroom, and because they had to suffer the humiliation of being
exposed in a glass dock during their hearings.
Their right to freedom of expression was also violated, the court ruled, because of the band members' conviction and prison sentences, which were exceptionally severe. A further violation was committed by banning internet access to a video of the
band's performance, the judgment said.
The court also found Russia violated the right to liberty and security, and the right to a fair trial.
It ordered Russia pay damages of 16,000 euros each to Alekhina and Tolokonnikova and 5,000 euros to Samutsevich, as well as 11,760 euros for costs and expenses.
The Polish government is demanding that ISPs snitch on their customers who attempt to access websites it deems illegal.
The government wants to make the restrictions stricter for unauthorised online gambling sites and will require local ISPs to inform it about citizens' attempts to access them. According to the Panoptykon Foundation, a digital rights watchdog, the
government will compile a central registry of unauthorized websites to monitor.
According to the digital rights body, the government seeks to introduce a chief snooper that would compel data from ISPs disclosing which citizens tried to access unauthorised websites. In addition, the ISPs would have to keep the smooping
requests secret from the customer.
Local organisations are unsurprisingly worried that the censorship's expansion could turn out to be the first of many steps in an online limitation escalation.
Against all the odds, but with the support of nearly
a million Europeans , MEPs voted earlier this month to
reject the EU's proposed copyright reform--including controversial proposals to create a new "snippet" right for news publishers, and mandatory copyright filters for sites that published user uploaded content.
The result was a vote on July 5th of all MEPS, which ended in a 318 against 278 victory in favour of withdrawing the Parliament's support for the languages. Now all MEPs will have a chance in September to submit new amendments and vote on a final
text -- or reject the directive entirely.
While re-opening the text was a surprising set-back for Article 13 and 11, the battle isn't over: the language to be discussed on in September will be based on
the original proposal by the European Commission, from two years ago -- which included the first versions of the copyright filters, and snippet rights. German MEP Axel Voss's controversial modifications will also be included in the debate,
and there may well be a flood of other proposals, good and bad, from the rest of the European Parliament.
There's still sizeable support for the original text: Article 11 and 13's loudest proponents, led by Voss, persuaded many MEPs to support them by arguing that these new powers would restore the balance between American tech giants and Europe's
newspaper and creative industries -- or "close the value gap", as their arguments have it.
But using mandatory algorithmic censors and new intellectual property rights to restore balance is like Darth Vader bringing balance to the Force: the fight may involve a handful of brawling big players, but it's everybody else who would have to
deal with the painful consequences.
That's why it remains so vital for MEPs to hear voices that represent the wider public interest.
academics , and redditors, everyone from small Internet businesses and celebrity Youtubers, spoke up in a way that was impossible for the Parliament to ignore. The same Net-savvy MEPs and activists that wrote and fought for the GDPR put
their names to challenge the idea that these laws would rein back American tech companies. Wikipedians stood up and were counted: seven independent, European-language encyclopedias consensed to
shut down on the day of the vote. European alternatives to Google, Facebook and Twitter argued that
would set back their cause . And
European artists spoke up that the EU shouldn't be setting up censorship and ridiculous link rights in their name.
To make sure the right amendments pass in September, we need to keep that conversation going. Read on to find out what you can do, and who you should be speaking to.
Who Spoke Up In The European Parliament?
As we noted last week, the decision to challenge the JURI committee's language on Article 13 and 11 last week was not automatic -- a minimum of 78 MEPs needed to petition for it to be put to the vote. Here's
the list of those MEPs who actively stepped forward to stop the bill. Also heavily involved was Julia Reda, the Pirate Party MEP who worked so hard on making the rest of the proposed directive so positive for copyright reform, and then
re-dedicated herself to stopping the worst excesses of the JURI language, and
Marietje Schaake , the Parliament's foremost advocate for human rights online.
These are the core of the opposition to Article 13 and 11. A look at that list, and the
final list of votes on July 5th, shows that the proposals have opponents in every corner of Europe's political map. It also shows that every MEP who voted for Article 13 and 11, has someone close to them politically who knows why it's
What happens now?
In the next few weeks, those deep in the minutiae of the Copyright directive will be crafting amendments for MEPs to vote on in September. The tentative schedule is that the amendments are accepted until Wednesday September 5th, with a vote at
12:00 Central European Time on Wednesday September 12th.
The European Parliament has a fine tradition of producing a rich supply of amendments (the GDPR had thousands). We'll need to coalesce support around a few key fixes that will keep the directive free of censorship filters and snippet rights
language, and replace them with something less harmful to the wider Net.
Julia Reda already proposed amendments. And one of Voss' strongest critics in the latest vote was Catherine Stihler, the Scottish MEP who had created and passed consumer-friendly directive language in her committee, which Voss ignored. (Here's
barnstorming speech before the final vote.)
While we wait for those amendments to appear, the next step is to keep the pressure on MEPs to remember what's at stake -- no mandatory copyright filters, and no new ancillary rights on snippets of text.
In particular, if you
talk to your MEP , it's important to convey how you feel these proposals will affect you . MEPs are hearing from giant tech and media companies. But they are only just beginning to hear from a broader camp: the people of the Internet.
France's online gaming authority (ARJEL, Autorité de Régulation des Jeux En Ligne) has decided that loot boxes in premium-priced games are not gambling. It determined that loot boxes are not legally considered gambling, and therefore are
However, ARJEL will continue to monitor the matter and is also calling for more unilateral support from the European Union in order to achieve a sound consensus on whether or not to consider loot boxes gambling.
According to ARJEL, the fact that you can't readily cash out your rewards from loot boxes for real-world currency means that in the minds of regulators it's not quite gambling. For them, the only way it would be gambling is if players could
actually retrieve the money that they invested into the product.
However, ARJEL also believes that loot boxes do contain questionable psychological hooks that work very similar to slot machines and roulette wheels in terms of luring gamers into a feeling of needing to spend more money in order to acquire the
item they seek.
As we have been covering in the last couple of articles, a controversial EU Copyright Directive has been under discussion at the European Parliament, and in a surprising turn of events,
it voted to reject fast-tracking the tabled proposal by the JURI Committee which contained controversial proposals, particularly in
Art 11 and
Art 13 . The proposed Directive will now get a full discussion and debate in plenary in September.
I say surprising because for those of us who have been witnesses (and participants) to the Copyright Wars for the last 20 years, such a defeat of copyright maximalist proposals is practically unprecedented, perhaps with the exception of
SOPA/PIPA . For years we've had a familiar pattern in the passing of copyright legislation: a proposal has been made to enhance protection and/or restrict liberties, a small group of ageing millionaire musicians would be paraded supporting
the changes in the interest of creators. Only copyright nerds and a few NGOs and digital rights advocates would complain, their opinions would be ignored and the legislation would pass unopposed. Rinse and repeat.
But something has changed, and a wide coalition has managed to defeat powerful media lobbies for the first time in Europe, at least for now. How was this possible?
The main change is that the media landscape is very different thanks to the Internet. In the past, the creative industries were monolithic in their support for stronger protection, and they included creators, corporations, collecting societies,
publishers, and distributors; in other words the gatekeepers and the owners were roughly on the same side. But the Internet brought a number of new players, the tech industry and their online platforms and tools became the new gatekeepers.
Moreover, as people do not buy physical copies of their media and the entire industry has moved towards streaming, online distributors have become more powerful. This has created a perceived imbalance, where the formerly dominating industries
need to negotiate with the new gatekeepers for access to users. This is why creators complain about a
value gap between what they perceive they should be getting, and what they actually receive from the giants.
The main result of this change from a political standpoint is that now we have two lobbying sides in the debate, which makes all the difference when it comes to this type of legislation. In the past, policymakers could ignore experts and digital
rights advocates because they never had the potential to reach them, letters and articles by academics were not taken into account, or given lip service during some obscure committee discussion just to be hidden away. Tech giants such as Google
have provided lobbying access in Brussels, which has at least levelled the playing field when it comes to presenting evidence to legislators.
As a veteran of the Copyright Wars, I have to admit that it has been very entertaining reading the reaction from the copyright industry lobby groups and their individual representatives, some almost going apoplectic with rage at Google's
intervention. These tend to be the same people who spent decades lobbying legislators to get their way unopposed, representing large corporate interests unashamedly and passing laws that would benefit only a few, usually to the detriment of
users. It seems like lobbying must be decried when you lose.
But to see this as a victory for Google and other tech giants completely ignores the large coalition that shares the view that the proposed Articles 11 and 13 are very badly thought-out, and could represent a real danger to existing rights. Some
of us have been fighting this fight when Google did not even exist, or it was but a small competitor of AltaVista, Lycos, Excite and Yahoo!
At the same time that more restrictive copyright legislation came into place, we also saw the rise of free and open source software, open access, Creative Commons and open data. All of these are legal hacks that allow sharing, remixing and
openness. These were created precisely to respond to restrictive copyright practices. I also remember how they were opposed as existential threats by the same copyright industries, and treated with disdain and animosity. But something wonderful
happened, eventually open source software started winning (we used to buy operating systems), and Creative Commons became an important part of the Internet's ecosystem by propping-up valuable common spaces such as Wikipedia.
Similarly, the Internet has allowed a great diversity of actors to emerge. Independent creators, small and medium enterprises, online publishers and startups love the Internet because it gives them access to a wider audience, and often they can
bypass established gatekeepers. Lost in this idiotic "Google v musicians" rhetoric has been the threat that both Art 11 and 13 represent to small entities. Art 11 proposes a new publishing right that has been proven to affect smaller
players in Germany and Spain; while Art 13 would impose potentially crippling economic restrictions to smaller companies as they would have to put in place automated filtering systems AND redress mechanisms against mistakes. In fact, it has been
often remarked that Art 13 would benefit existing dominant forces, as they already have filtering in place (think ContentID).
Similarly, Internet advocates and luminaries see the proposals as a threat to the Internet, the people who know the Web best think that this is a bad idea. If you can stomach it,
read this thread featuring a copyright lobbyist attacking Neil Gaiman, who has been one of the Internet celebrities that have voiced their concerns about the Directive.
copyright experts who almost never intervene in digital rights affairs the have been vocal in their opposition to the changes.
And finally we have political representatives from various parties and backgrounds who have been vocally opposed to the changes. While the leader of the political opposition has been the amazing Julia Reda, she has managed to bring together a
variety of voices from other parties and countries. The vitriol launched at her has been unrelenting, but futile. It has been quite a sight to see her opponents both try to dismiss her as just another clueless young Pirate commanded by Google,
while at the same time they try to portray her as a powerful enemy in charge of the mindless and uninformed online troll masses ready to do her bidding.
All of the above managed to do something wonderful, which was to convey the threat in easy-to-understand terms so that users could contact their representatives and make their voice heard. The level of popular opposition to the Directive has been
a great sight to behold.
Tech giants did not create this alliance, they just gave various voices access to the table. To dismiss this as Google's doing completely ignores the very real and rich tapestry of those defending digital rights, and it is quite clearly
patronising and insulting, and precisely the reason why they lost. It was very late until they finally realised that they were losing the debate with the public, and not even the last-minute deployment of musical dinosaurs could save the day.
But the fight continues, keep contacting your MEPs and keep applying pressure.
So who supported internet censorship in the EU parliamentary vote?
Mostly the EU Conservative Group and also half the Social Democrat MEPs and half the Far Right MEPs