How will new EU copyright regulations impact US musicians, bloggers, and others?

The European Union, a work of art itself in many ways, is addressing what media refer to as “copyright reform.” The consensus on doing this seems to be that the digital age requires such reforms and artists aren’t getting what they deserve for their content. Advocates include Paul McCartney, although it’s hard to accept he hasn’t gotten gobs of money without copyright reform. Web titans like Google and Facebook will be impacted, and so will anyone in the US working on music, blogging, news writing, and in other genres.

Why?

The Web is global, and the reach touches every single one of us. While the US has less restrictions on speech than any other country in the world because of our Constitution and the Bill of Rights, that isn’t the case in other countries. The EU places what are in my opinion draconian limits on speech. Consider this reportage from what I perceive to be a center left publication:

“Last year, the German parliament enacted the NetzDG law, requiring large social media sites to remove posts that violate certain provisions of the German code, including broad prohibitions on “defamation of religion,” “hate speech,” and “insult.” The removal obligation is triggered not by a court order, but by complaints from users. Companies must remove the posts within 24 hours or seven days (depending on whether the post is considered to be “manifestly unlawful” or merely “unlawful), facing steep fines if they fail to do so.”

Just as global restrictions on speech have led to an increase in US censorship, the same will happen with copyright reform. Although reform is definitely a worthy goal, the new regulations will, in my opinion, do exactly what the increased censorship has done to indie artists and small publishers in the US—make it even harder to succeed.

Anytime complex regulations are enacted, those most disadvantaged are the mom-and-pop operations and other small business models. The Guardian noted as much in a recent article:

“In fact, some warn the law could paradoxically help big tech, since only the very largest companies will have the resources to comply with the regulations. Raegan MacDonaldthe head of EU public policy at the independent browser company Mozilla, says: “With a chance to bring copyright rules into the 21st century the EU institutions have squandered the progress made by innovators and creators to imagine new content and share it with people across the world, and have instead handed the power back to large US-owned record labels, film studios and big tech.”

Tweaks made this year were intended to specifically protect the use of such content “for purposes of quotation, criticism, review, caricature, parody and pastiche”. But technology companies say the protection is impossible to uphold, since no automatic filter can usefully determine whether a given upload is parody or simply infringement.”

Even simple linking will be affected. Imagine the impact of this on a small publisher:

“Another part of the copyright overhaul would require news aggregation services like Google’s to negotiate commercial licenses with publishers in order to post snippets or links to articles.”

One consequence, that of “stricter filtering” was easy to predict. As an article at MusicLinkUp noted:

“Article 13 (renamed Article 17 in the consolidated text), which requires UGC platforms like YouTube to agree “fair remuneration” license deals with rights holders and makes them legally liable for hosting unlicensed content, effectively ending safe harbor immunity…In practice, that’s likely to involve YouTube using a stricter filtering system…”

Tech corps like Google and Facebook rely on a global audience. The vast majority of countries around the globe place more limits on individual freedom and more power in the hands of government. Unfortunately rights and opportunities in the United States will ultimately be even more diluted as a result.

It’s a good idea to keep informed about these changes if you place any creative content on the Internet. Changes are coming, and they will most harshly impact indies and small businesses.

(Kay B. Day/March 28, 2019)

 

 

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