Looming EU copyright rules – tackling Google news article scraping, installing upload filters – under fire from all sides

The question now is: Will it move forward or not?

Messing with the 'net

But thanks to the billions of people online and the openness of these platforms that let anyone create an account and upload material within minutes, that process simply doesn't work. Google receives literally millions of takedown requests every day and copyright holders have created software that generates possible URLs and sends them to Google et al in an effort to get ahead of the game.

It is a broken system that frustrates everybody. But then, as often happens in policy work, it is all too easy to find holes in any proposed solution. Articles 11 and 13 are intended to fix the problem. But the devil is in the detail and policymakers have been repeatedly warned that they need to get the wording right.

Recent efforts to fix people's honest concerns appear to have gone the wrong direction however.

In Article 11, some complained that the blanket ban on using snippets of news stories would effectively stop people from being able to share news stories online at all. Google even sent ridiculous mock-ups of its news page to an industry publication that showed basically blank pages and claimed that's what it would look like if the article was passed (note that Google refuses to concede that it might actually just pay others to use their copyright, you know, like what has happened for over a hundred years.)

And so negotiators have come up with some language [PDF] that will "exclude from the protection of the press publishers’ right 'individual words and very short extracts of a press publication'."

Some copyleft loons insist this is still the end of the world, but it isn't. It does remain fiercely fought over however.

Meanwhile, Article 13 is much more complicated in that it is difficult to assess how a company can check content to see if it is copyrighted before it publishes it. What system should they sue? Lawmakers can't be too prescriptive but at the same time, if the rules are too loose then Google et al will simply drive a bus through the loophole and nothing will change.

No easy solution

No one wants companies to block everything unless they can prove its not copyrighted because that would remove one of the great things about the internet – the ability to self-publish. But at the same time, companies that do allow users to upload content are worried about being held liable if their systems don't work effectively enough.

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It's a difficult problem to solve and the current state of negotiations appears to imagine that users will be able to easily get hold of a license to prove that they have to right to upload whatever content they wish to upload: a solution that could require copyright holders to create entirely new, and very expensive, systems to grant millions of users licenses.

They don't like it; the tech companies don't like it; and time is running out: hence the calls for substantial changes and/or postponement of the entire article until the law becomes more settled or new technologies make the solution more obvious and scalable.

Of course, the problem is that without some kind of liability pressure, there is little impetus for any company to come up with a technological solution that everyone can agree on that will limit the sharing of copyrighted material. And so everyone is in a bind.

The bigger question right now is: will the European Parliament view that fact that everyone is pretty unhappy with Article 13 as a sign that a decent compromise has been reached, or will it view it as no more than bad policy wording? We will have to wait and see until next week but our money is on Article 13 being dropped.

Which means users will continue to be able to watch their favorite TV show/movie/music video on YouTube for free while the company rakes in billions from ad revenue and the people that actually made the content continue to fume and send pointless takedown requests. ®

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