A sad day for freedom of speech on the internet.
Yesterday, the EU Copyright Directive passed by 438 votes to 226 with 39 abstentions in the European Parliament. The piece of legislation passed with 100 small amendments, after having been originally rejected for trialogue as the bill authors had meant to get it through to trialogue without MEPs scrutiny and votes. The reasons this would spell the end of the internet as a free and open platform of ideas is simple. Article 13 of the bill requires websites that host user content or forums where people post, will be required to enforce copyright law, rather than the individual uploader of the content taking responsibility. The reason this is bad is that it is patently impossible for website owners no matter how large to personally or have staff sort through all the uploaded content users upload. If the website fails to police the content, there can be large fines for failing to do so.
You might be wondering why all the fire and brimstone if this is the case? Simple, you know that Youtube algorithm that false flags content even if it’s under fair use or not subject to copyright? Now imagine that but on all the major websites as they automate everything just to stay in line with this law. This could be the end of memes and other content that uses copyrighted material under fair use to spread a message or just make a joke. It could smother political commentators or activists.
Article 11 is also bad for the internet and alternative media sites, dubbed “the link tax”. This disgusting legislation would require internet companies to pay legacy news media outlets for links to sources or articles created by them. Even quotes and blurbs would incur the charge. So no longer will the legacy media be held accountable as only the most wealthy companies could afford to pay for each link. Although this was supposedly amended to say that publishing “insubstantial parts of a press publication” should not be subjected to the norm, that amendment fails to give a clear definition of what “insubstantial” boils down to. Does it mean a hyperlink snippet? A sentence? A word?
This legislation is a transparent attempt at destroying alternative media on the web (blogs, YouTubers who commentate on the news, amateur news outlets). Those who are exposing the legacy media’s and for the government’s lies designed to oppress their citizens by deciding what is truth or lie. Like some twisted attempt at making the ministry of truth reality, rather than letting each individual decide for themselves. It came about as memes and internet social media, helped Leave win the Brexit referendum and Donald Trump become president. George Orwell would be stirring in his grave if he knew what was happening today.
However not all is lost, yesterday’s vote is not the end of the story. Every amendment approved yesterday will have to undergo another round of behind-closed-doors negotiations between EU politicos and EU member states, before going again through a vote in January 2019. The war is for the free and open internet is far from over.