The EU, once again, has the Internet as the focus of its attention. Only a few weeks ago, the new EU directive GDPR was on everyone's mind, now the next bureaucratic madness from Brussels is already looming in the distance. In September there will be a second vote on the so-called "Article 11" and "Article 13", which could end the Internet as we know it (a first voting in July showed that this law still has to be revised). What exactly is hidden in these articles?
Article 11 and 13 of the copyright directive
Copyright shall be extended and aligned amongst member states through these two articles. In terms of content, it is very reminiscent of a past attempt by YouTube. Just a few years ago, the largest video platform on the Internet attempted to stop copyright infringement during the upload of videos, through the use of a filter. However, this has produced results that quickly led to the removal of the filter - it censored, for example, videos with chirping birds in the background, just because a copyrighted audio track in the database of YouTube also contained chirping birds. Additionally, videos with background music were already blocked during the upload process.
Article 13 is now trying again to utilize this strategy and attempts to filter the Internet automatically, so that protected material cannot even get to social media and platforms such as YouTube.
Meanwhile, Article 11 is the attempt to get news agencies additional advertising revenue. Thus, on Facebook and Co. shared content from news sites should be displayed in a way, that users can only see them by surfing to the news page itself - it promises to bring more advertising revenue for the agencies.
Internet experts are already enraged
Experts warn that these two articles, if implemented, could be akin to a censorship of the Internet. A huge state database would have to emerge, which would not only devour millions of taxpayer-money, but would also lead to every single user becoming transparent.
In addition, the aforementioned filter could give the state the opportunity to censor the entire Internet in a way, that would eradicate freedom of expression.
At the same time, it is unlikely that Article 11 would actually enable the, recently struggling, mainstream media to increase their advertising revenues. Rather similar attempts have been made in the past, which have already gone awry. Incidentally, publishers and agencies would initially have costs of millions of euros due to the EU proposals, because they would have to pay extra tax on the one hand and expect more administrative work on the other, due to increased data expenditure.
The politicians behind the law, however, see their proposals as a meaningful measure against fake news and the protection of reliable news sites.
My opinion regarding article 11 and 13: The EU is making a massive mistake
The costs of this mammoth project are likely to be paid by the taxpayer and that even tough it is not yet foreseeable, if the EU proposals can be implemented as desired.
But even if everything works as planned, there are still many problems for the Internet and its users:
The dangers of the censorship
The greatest danger certainly comes from state censorship, which is fully enabled with Article 13. The filtering functions will probably be under state supervision, so ultimately it is the EU that decides what users can or cannot see on the Internet.
An automated filter hasn’t worked for YouTube
Even YouTube has quickly halted its experiment with the content filter, due to it becoming obvious that content has been massively blocked, even though said content was not guilty of copyright infringement. If a big internet company signals surrender here, we certainly cannot trust, that the EU, of all institutions, will do a better job with its bureaucracy.
Inhibition of competition
If you have a large budget available, you might even be happy about the EU proposals, as they make life difficult for small competitors. The small private news blog is unlikely to have enough money to act against closures, but the multi-billion-dollar entity has its own law firm as a partner anyway.
Artistic freedom perishes
Remixes, response videos and even memes could soon be a thing of the past with the EU proposals. This destroys the artistic freedom and the right of everyone to express themselves.
Article 11 and 13 are only weeks away from being voted
The first voting on the new law, on July 5th, was voted no by the majority but this is only temporary win for the Internet. In September, the EU will vote again on the next version of this law. Until then, pro-internet groups are starting petitions to stop this law, before it gets voted with for example online petitions in change.org.
Personally, I hope they succeed.