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Damir Kaletovic

Damir Kaletovic

Writer, Safehaven.com

Damir Kaletovic is an award-winning investigative journalist, documentary filmmaker and expert on Southeastern Europe whose work appears on behalf of Divergente Research.

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Why We Should Be Worried About Europe’s New Copyright Laws

Tech

For anyone who’s been ignoring the GDPR, the General Data Protection Regulation, because it’s another boring acronym, and because it just sounds innocuously European, it’s more significant than it sounds …

And it may come more ominous in a few weeks.

The European Union is now trying to introduce strict new rules that require online platforms to filter out infringing content backed by rights holders, and it’s under fire from various technology groups.

According to the EU, the copyright legislation intends to protect the intellectual property rights of people who upload their material to the internet. The EU Parliament’s legal affairs committee will vote on the bill on June 20th, followed by a parliamentary vote on July 5th.

The bill is separate from the GDPR, which came into effect on May 25th  with the intention of giving consumers control of their personal data collected by companies. In other words, it’s a potential nightmare for companies.

Europe is generally more concerned about privacy than the U.S., believe it or not, and the EU goes to great lengths to protect the private data of its population.

The European Commission made the initial proposal for a copyright directive two years ago and at its heart were two radical changes, and they will have a significant impact on copyright practices in the EU. Related: Things Are Beginning To Look Up For Bitcoin

Indeed, some have called it extreme, and caution that it will harm tech giants like Google, Facebook and Twitter.  

So what’s so radical?

For starters, Article 11 of the bill, also known as the “link tax”, which creates a new right for news publishers that would force Google and Facebook, for instance, to pay for linking to press articles.

This isn’t the first time that such a “link tax” has been tried. Spain and Germany started trying this on for size back in 2013, but it didn’t work. Google News shut down in Spain, while the German experiment fared only slightly better.

The only place to manage it effectively is China, where they have much stricter controls on the news that is published.

Article 11 has critics in a frenzy because, from their perspective, the “link tax” essentially gives news sites the power to decide who gets to link to them. Or put in another way, publishers can silence their critics while at the same time extracting money from the giants.

The other bone of contention for opponents is Article 13, which deals with copyright filters. In other words, Article 13 requires internet platforms and websites to pre-monitor user content for copyright infringements.

According to the European ISP Association, Article 13 would have a massively negative impact multinational corporations and the “majority of the internet ecosystem, mostly comprised of small and medium size providers”. And ISPs could end up being held accountable for any violations if infringing content bypasses filters.

“This might lead to dramatic restrictions in ISPs’ terms of service, which could in turn engender a situation where potentially illegal content as well as controversial legal content might be barred from being shared online,” EuroISPA’s VP, Maximillian Schubert, told Bloomberg Law.

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Julia Reda, a German member of the European Parliament, (Pirate Party) has repeatedly warned of the negative consequences of the pending legislation. She has told media repeatedly that it would be unmanageable for some websites and would place end up punishing the wrong people.

“They place a significant burden on small companies and thus hamper competition from European platforms against dominant US ones,” Reda said.

Or, as Cory Doctorow, and MIT Media Lab Research Affiliate, wrote for Vice Motherboard recently: “[…] ironically enough it will help ensure that the tech giants of today can continue to rule the internet. Facebook and Google and Twitter will figure out how to deal with the link tax. Maybe they’ll share some of their profits with the big media companies, or maybe they’ll boycott the media companies until they agree to a ‘free license’ (this is what happened when Germany tried this a few years ago.) Either way, they can afford to manage the cost.”

Tomorrow, then, will be a big day for everyone, and a ‘yes’ vote is anything but secured.

By Damir Kaletovic for Safehaven.com

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