I’ve just published a comprehensive explainer on Medium about the EU’s new Copyright Directive, which was sabotaged at the last minute, when MEP Axel Voss snuck in the long-discredited ideas of automatically censoring anything a bot thinks infringes copyright and banning unpaid links to news articles.
After a million Europeans signed a petition calling for a debate on the new proposals, a divided opposition failed to kill them. But hope is not lost: the new Italian government has changed position on the proposals and now the opposition constitutes a potential “blocking minority” that could kill the whole thing — provided they could work together.
The new Directive is now in the “trilogues” — closed-door negotiations between the E.U.’s Parliament and individual national governments. Normally, these are a formality that takes place out of public view. However, the current trilogue is both more contested and more public than any in the E.U.’s history.
The European Court of Justice has ruled that Europeans are entitled to know what happens in these trilogue negotiations, and German Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda has pledged to publish the negotiating documents (and she’s kept her word).
What’s more, the trilogues coincide with political changes in Italy, and the Italian government has withdrawn its support for Articles 11 and 13. This brings the proportion of Europeans who oppose these articles past the critical threshold of 35%, a theoretical “blocking minority” that could scuttle the entire proposal (assuming they can avoid the trap the opposition fell into last time: agreeing that these rules aren’t appropriate but disagreeing on what to do about it).
It’s not clear what will happen next. If these rules are meant to cut Big Tech down to size, they’re sure to disappoint. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple, and the other tech giants are the only companies big enough to be able to afford the hundreds of millions it will cost to follow the new rules. Small competitors in the E.U. just don’t have that kind of cash. Freed from any threat of competition from E.U. companies, dominant tech platforms will be left to grow unchecked. They will present even more of a threat to democratic discourse, privacy, and competition than they already do.
Europe’s Copyright Rules Will Stifle Free Expression [Cory Doctorow/Medium]
One of the most controversial elements of the EU’s new Copyright Directive is Article 11, the “link tax,” which requires paid licenses for links to news stories that contain “excerpts” (more than a single word from the story or its headline, depending on which draft you’re reading).
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