Opinion Series: on Link Tax and EU censorship laws

When the EU get together to discuss legislation on digital issues, all tech firms and entrepreneurs hold their breath. This time it might actually be more important than ever to breath out quickly and open our mouths and speak up, though.

EU passes controversial digital legislation

EU passes controversial digital legislation

Some of the legislation discussed and approved today could change the world as we know it substantially. Here is what you need to know and my take on things.

What happened exactly

“The European Parliament has voted in favor of the Copyright Directive, a controversial piece of legislation intended to update online copyright laws for the internet age” The Verge

There are two main directives that are relevant to us, users, marketers, publishers and platforms alike.

The first is Article 11:

Article 11 is intended to give publishers and papers a way to make money when companies like Google link to their stories, allowing them to demand paid licenses

The second is Article 13:

Article 13 requires marketers platforms like YouTube and Facebook stop users sharing unlicensed copyrighted material

Both of these laws are set out to protect the European market and intellectual property. But, in doing so they might just create an impossible situation for both publishers and platforms alike.

Article 11

Article 11 gives content creators the rights to demand a fee from anyone who links to their content. Yes, this means that the content creator is more in control of how he wants to be paid for the content.

This law is set out to make sure that Google and Facebook cannot make money off of content without the permission of the original source.

The main problem is the internet works because we can share content freely. The way the legislation is written up, it could mean that a content producer could ask for money from someone who shares a link to his article on any given social media channel. This is, of course, a big problem for both the publisher as well as the end consumer.

Article 11 tries to promote self-control of content. It aims to give the content creator a tool to get paid for the hard work. Yet, it is very difficult to uphold and defines unwritten rules of how we use the internet, today.

Article 13

The thirteenth article, makes platforms (such as Google and Facebook) responsible for the content shared by its users. The platforms are to impose a filter to account for copyright material.

The general idea is not necessarily wrong. However, the question is whether or not Facebook and Google are willing and able to do just that. How can large international platforms distinguish between satire and copyright? What happens to our memes?

Critics of Article 13 say: “This will open up a possibility for censorship by the European Union.” They think: “It will give the EU the tools it needs to ban content it deems inappropriate.”

Now, Facebook and Google have been in the line of fire regarding censorship for quite some time. Both tech giants are known to have banned certain users and their content on the basis of copyrights. Whereas the content was arguably simply not in line with the general public opinion. And problems with copyright were a mere excuse to take the content down.

The bottom line

The two legislation will go into effect as early as January of next year. As with all EU-laws, they then need to be passed through the local governments.

Thus, each country is allowed to decide on how they would like to interpret and use the legislation. They are a derivative for each nation, yet can be enforced upon non-EU parties by the European Union.

However, I personally do not see how the Link-Tax is going to work. Neither do I think it is a particularly good idea to make a third party responsible for the content, made by others. I believe that we should continue to hold the actual content creator/sharer responsible for his or her actions and not the platforms.

It remains to be seen how quickly and to what extent this will go into effect. I think this discussion is far from over, and it will affect us all.

Have a great day, Remco