Open Rights Group has criticised the European Commission’s proposals for the Directive on Copyright in the Single Market, published today.
Executive Director Jim Killock said:
Thousands of EU citizens responded to the consultation on copyright, only for the Commission to ignore their concerns in favour of industry. The Commission’s proposals would fail to harmonise copyright law and create a fair system for Internet users, creators and rights holders. Instead we could see new regressive rights that compel private companies to police the Internet on behalf of rights holders.
Failure to introduce EU wide freedom of panorama exception
The failure to introduce a harmonised exception for freedom of panorama is both a lost opportunity and a direct snub to the thousands of people who responded to the Commission’s consultation on this. It appears that the Commission has simply ignored their opinions and made no mention of freedom of panorama in its proposals. Freedom of panorama is a copyright exception that allows members of the public to share pictures they’ve taken of public buildings and art. While this right exists in the UK, many European countries do not have this exception, which means that innocuous holiday snaps can infringe copyright.
Compelling intermediaries to filter content
The proposals aim to compel intermediaries, such as YouTube, to prevent works that infringe copyright from appearing on their services through content identification technologies . This is effect would force sites to police their platforms on behalf of rights holders through filters and other technologies that are a blunt instrument.
Such proposals could place unreasonable burdens on smaller operators and reduce innovation among EU tech companies. They will certainly lead to a greater number of incorrect takedowns, as “Robocopy” takedowns cannot take account of fair quotation, parody, or even use of public domain material.
These plans could undermine the UK’s hard-won right to parody copyright works. Folk songs and classical performances by amateurs are often misidentified and removed as infringing ‘copies’ of performances of professional musicians for instance.
New ancillary copyright for news publishers
The proposals suggest a new right for news publishers, designed to prevent search engines and news aggregators from reproducing snippets at the expense of publishers. Although, this is designed to protect the media industry, it had a disastrous impact on news websites when similar proposals were introduced in Spain and Germany. It is also disproportionate that the proposed right would last 20 years, given that it applies to news.
Open Rights Group is the UK’s leading grass roots digital rights organisation, campaigning for the right to privacy and free speech.
ORG’s FAQs document on freedom of panorama is available here .
ORG is part of Copyright for Creativity, which campaigns for a new European approach to copyright.
Meanwhile TorrentFreak has been speaking to Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda about the impossibility of the proposals for anyone except for US media giants. TorrentFreak reports:
Today, the European Commission published its long-awaited proposal to modernize the EU’s copyright law. Among other things, it will require online services to install mandatory piracy filters. While the Commission intends to strengthen the position of copyright holders, opponents warn that it will do more harm than good.
Despite earlier suggestions that geo-blocking would be banned for streaming portals such as Netflix, these ideas haven’t made it into the final text. Instead, it introduces a wide range of reforms that improve the position of rights holders.
One of the suggestions that has a lot of people worried is Article 13, which requires online services to police pirated content. This means that online services, which deal with large volumes of user-uploaded content, must use fingerprinting and filtering mechanisms to block copyright infringing files. The Commission demands:
The Commission proposal obliges such service providers to take appropriate and proportionate measures to ensure the protection of user-uploaded works, for example by putting in place content recognition technologies.
This could, for example, be similar to the Content-ID system YouTube has in place, which hasn’t been without controversy itself. While the Commission stresses that small content platforms won’t be subject to the requirement, the proposal doesn’t define what small means. It also fails to define what appropriate or effective content recognition systems are, creating a fair bit of uncertainty.
The Commission, however, notes that the changes are needed to reinforce the negotiating position of copyright holders, so they can sign licensing agreements with services that provide access to user uploaded content.
Perhaps not surprisingly, this language is directly aligned with recent calls from various music industry organizations. Just a few month ago the BPI asked for new legislation to prevent platforms like YouTube abusing safe harbor protections in order to create royalty havens . With the current proposal, this wish has been partly granted.
TorrentFreak spoke with Pirate Party Member of Parliament Julia Reda who is fiercely against mandatory piracy filters.
There are countless problems with this approach. First of all, Google spent upwards of $60 million on the development of ContentID. Asking every startup or community project to make the same kind of investment is ludicrous.
Most services that deal with user-uploaded content can’t invest millions into content recognition technologies so they would have to license it from others such as YouTube. This will only increase the already dominant positions of the major players.
In addition, she points out that automated systems often lead to overt mistakes and are poorly equipped to deal with the finer nuances of copyright.
Just because part of a copyright-protected work shows up in a video, that doesn’t mean that the new work constitutes a copyright infringement.
There are numerous exceptions to copyright such as parody or quotation â?� different in every EU country â?� that could justify the re-use of part of a protected work. An algorithm can’t detect that. It will take down lots of legal remixes and mashups, thus stifling freedom of expression.
A valid comment, as we witnessed ourselves just a few days ago when one of our perfectly legal videos was inaccurately flagged as a copyright infringement.
YouTube aside, Reda stresses that there are many other platforms to which automated recognition systems are not well suited. Wikipedia, for example, which uses mostly Creative Commons licensed content, or services such as DeviantArt which hosts user-uploaded artwork, or MuseScore that hosts sheet music.
There is no technology available that would reliably detect copyright infringements in these formats. The Commission is asking Internet companies to do the impossible, thus endangering collaborative communities on the Internet as well as European startups.
And there is already a campaign in place against the EU’s nasty proposals. The SaveTheLink campaign via OpenMedia writes:
The EU Commission has officially released some of the worst copyright laws in the world, including unprecedented new Link Tax powers for publishing giants.
Despite opposition from over 100,000 Internet users and dozens of other advocacy groups, the EU Commission has charged ahead with its wrong-headed plan. This will affect Internet users around the world.
This comes on the heels of a major court ruling that undermined our right to use hyperlinks. 4 This means it’s more important than ever that EU decision-makers do what they can to stop this dangerous #LinkTax plan. 5
The link tax could make some of your favourite content virtually disappear from search engines. Users all over the world will be impacted.
Join us now at SaveTheLink.org to give decision-makers a clear resounding ‘no to the link tax’.