Article 13 – The Death of the Internet

Ross Tibbles
Ross Tibbles

Well, more accurately, The European Union Directive on Copyright for the Digital Single Market, but that’s a little wordy to be chanting outside parliament.

While we have all been focused on the rapidly approaching Brexit decisions, the EU parliament has unbelievably passed Article 13.

What is article 13?

Article 13 is the EU parliament’s attempt to update copyright laws to “protect and redirect” revenue back to the original content creators. The current copyright laws were written years before the internet became such a prolific platform for sharing media.

The intent of the bill is pure and very much needed. Artists and musicians should be paid fairly on all platforms when their work is used, and it is frequently not, which is what they’re trying to address. However, instead of working with the platforms to come up with a way to do this without damaging those who use other’s content fairly, they have devised a law that will in fact not do what it set out to achieve.

The original proposal was thrown out as it directly effected freedom of expression and speech online and advocated filtering of the internet.

There are two key aspects to article 13 that are the heralds of doom for the internet as we know it in the EU, and possibly globally.

The first is that at the point of upload you have to be able to prove irrevocably that the content you have uploaded, in its entirety from visuals to audio, belong solely to you. It is the end to fair usage. You will no longer be able to use even a snippet of film footage or music tracks, or even common images to illustrate points, add character or humour to content uploaded.

Currently, platforms such as YouTube run a 3 strike copyright system where if your content receives 3 strikes for infringement inside of a month, it is removed. This new rule will reduce that to a singular strike. And not just the removal of the video, it could also lead to that person being permanently banned from uploading ever again.

The second key point is that it makes the platform the content is uploaded to liable for the infringement, not the person uploading. In conjunction with the first point, this becomes a huge issue.

YouTube has over 400 hours of video uploaded every hour and that is ever climbing, that’s an incredible amount of content to screen for these copyright violations and invariably thousands of instances will slip through the net. This means that they will be vulnerable to copyright lawsuits for each and every one of these that gets through. That’s a risk they can’t operate under or afford to continue afterwards, which will lead to just one outcome. They will have to ban all uploads from EU member countries.

What this means

In short, this will end the careers of millions of online businesses, entertainers and digital content creators globally. Most, if not all online media creators based in the EU will no longer be allowed to upload their content, whether it’s 100% original or adapted from other media. There will be no more movie critics, gaming streamers, reviews, music channels or any such content creators in the EU as the new law will block them from being able to upload or stream.

It will also mean that content that has copyrighted content in it that was produced in other countries will be blocked from being viewed in the EU, meaning that the content creators from the entirety of the world will have their potential audience decimated, reducing the value of the online market dramatically. It will also limit small online businesses and start-ups who will struggle to get investments and deals due to the limitations placed on them by these new laws.

This will also negatively impact on the very artists and creators that they claim this law revision is intended to “protect.” Their exposure and publicity is going to be more than halved which will dramatically reduce sales. How many people have gone to see a movie because they saw a review of it online? How many people have found a new band because you stumbled across a great playlist on YouTube?

While there are some notable artists in favour of this Directive, many are very vocally opposed to the loss of this free, extremely valuable exposure. Recently on Twitch about 20 channels were temporarily suspended for playing an artist’s song after the record label filed copyright claims against them. The artist whose new track was being promoted on these huge channels to tens of thousands of viewers was livid at the label, not the streamers, to whom he was very grateful they were promoting his music.

To name just a few of the platforms that will be decimated by Article 13 – All social medias, Google, YouTube, Twitch, Mixer, Amazon and Ebay. They are all unsurprisingly against it, but also giants who are exempt or not as affected are being vocal about the proposed law change too. Wikipedia, Github and Netflix have stated in no uncertain terms that this will be a crippling blow to how the world accesses the internet.

I wish all this was exaggeration, but even the big players are in agreement that this will be the single most damaging piece of litigation ever written. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki published a blogpost warning against the impact of the Directive. “Article 13 as written threatens to shut down the ability of millions of people – from creators like you to everyday users – to upload content to platforms like YouTube,” she wrote. “And, if implemented as proposed, Article 13 threatens hundreds of thousands of jobs, European creators, businesses, artists and everyone they employ,” she continued, before directing readers to the take the argument to social media with the hashtag “#SaveYourInternet”.

In essence, thanks to the influence of the media giants, angered that they’re not earning money from every instance of the content they represent being used, this has pressured politics into creating laws that will actually come back to shoot themselves in the foot.

The article now needs to be discussed between the European Commission, Parliament and Council to finalise the wording before it returns to Parliament for the final vote, after which EU member countries will need to be compliant within two years. So there is still some time left to try and overturn it. Please look for anything under the tag #SaveYourInternet and offer your voice in opposition.

As of March we will not be required to comply and will retain our connection to the creative community of the world outside of the EU. It will still affect us in that we’ll be seeing a whole lot less content produced from the EU but we won’t ourselves be as restricted in production or viewership of said content. A small silver lining.

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