Controversial EU Copyright Law ReformThe protection of copyrights in the open Internet and the threats of inadequate legal and technological mechanisms

The Internet as a media, used for accessing tons of information and services has now become major arena where numerous famous, starting and independent artists are able to showcase and make profit of their art. The freedom of the World Wide Web could cause harms, affecting copyrighted works in different negative ways. But the legal measures from the recent years concerning the regulation of copyrights on the Internet have brought a lot of shortcomings that can put many artists in disadvantage or even threaten their means of earning a living.

The Proposal for a DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on copyright in the Digital Single Market is the most recent example for this especially with articles 11 and 13 being the most problematic ones. Article 11 concerns the usage of hyperlinks of online journalistic content. Requirement for someone to include a link to his post or website is going to be paying the so called Link Tax which will make citing external content almost impossible. Numerous websites that rely on external hyperlinks like Wikipedia will lose their purpose. Also this legal measure is contrary to the principle of Fair use included in the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.

Similar law enforced in Spain back in 2014 forced Google to shut down its Google News service in the country. The law required charging the software giant for each Spanish publication. This legal measure aimed for increasing the income from the traffic to the Spanish media websites but it backfired as this led to numerous small and independent publishers being left with almost no access to their readers. The hyperlinks are fundamental part of the web-architecture and article 11 being similar to the given example above undermines the principle of net neutrality and puts many small and independent journalists in big disadvantage.
The concept behind article 13 is to create safer environment for the different types of copyrighted works. Information society service providers that store and provide to the public access to large amounts of works are going to be obliged with implementing filtering mechanisms in their work blocking every single re-uploaded copyright work on the Internet event if the later is featured for a couple of seconds in the said re-uploaded audio or video. This will lead to a drastic decline of uploaded video and audio content. These filtering technologies are also highly costly leading to numerous European companies being left in a downside state when competing on the world market. The filters used by the website for video sharing YouTube can be used as an example as to what the technological mechanisms in the Directive will look like. The system is called Content ID and it’s used for identifying copyrighted content on the video-sharing platform. Videos uploaded to YouTube are scanned against a database of files that have been submitted by content owners. Copyright owners get to decide what happens when content in a video on YouTube matches a work they own. When this happens, the video gets a Content ID claim. The copyright owners have the option to block the said content or let it stay active but profit from the revenue that is no longer in the hands of the user uploading the video. In theory this mechanism seems reasonable but in reality it caused thousands of videos being taken down. Many content creators suffer from the decline of revenue even if the claims made from the copyright owners are not justified and without any valid reason at all. Submitting a copyright infringement notification automatically redirects the revenue of the video from the content creator to the submitter of the claim. This filtering mechanism treats the Youtubers as “guilty until proven innocent” and fighting false accusations is a lengthy process leading to more loss of income.

Article 13 insists on implementing similar filters in the whole structure of the Internet. These technologies can’t determine whether or not copyrighted work is used legally or not thus leading to content that reviews, criticizes or has the right to future certain copyrighted work being taken down.

The DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on copyright in the Digital Single Market is still a subject to future discussions and voting which gets our hopes up that these draconian measures will be rejected and replaced with more reasonable ones. Combining and synchronizing formidable defense mechanisms for copyrights with preventing the damaging effects for the small and independent authors and content creators alongside with keeping the Internet freedom and neutrality is certainly a demanding task but we are in dire need for these problems to be solved wisely.

Hristo Yovchev

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Tags: Copyrights