Over the past few months, the European Parliament was in discussions to overhaul copyright law across the EU. This new Copyright Directive passed by a slim margin of 348 to 274 and brought with its two very controversial clauses known as Article 13 (renamed Article 17 in the most recent draft of the legislation) and Article 11. Nicknamed the upload filter, and link tax respectively, Article 13 and 11 are a vast deviation to the United States’ Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), and will greatly affect how US business’ operate in the region for the foreseeable future.
Article 11, known more commonly as the link tax allows publishers and rights holders to charge platforms when they display snippets of news. For example, services like Google News and Facebook could be forced to pay publishers for displays links and snippets of news stories. Google’s parent company, Alphabet was one of the largest critics against the new directive, claiming if news outlets charged for licenses to display the content already seen on Google News, Google will be forced to strip back the content it shows in search, and shutter Google News altogether. This is not the first time a country attempted a “link tax.” Both Spain and Germany attempted to introduce a link tax, and both times it was a complete failure.
The more well-known Article 13 (Article 17) was subject to a last-minute push to remove the clause from the final approved draft but was rejected by just 5 votes. Article 13 was publicized as the “death of memes”, unlike DMCA which grants protection so “service providers” like Youtube from the content posted by their users, Article 13 places new duties on service providers to prevent users from uploading copyrighted content. This leads to the unavoidable “upload filters” that will force online service providers like YouTube to spend significant funds to attempt actively police its own platform.
What more concerning is the text of the new Copyright Directive are vague at best, this is because EU
member states will have two years (2021), to adopt its own localized laws and policies enforcing the new directive. While the law may have been well-intended in an effort to empower rights holders, the reality reveals a true lack of understanding for free speech and an open internet. Advocates for the directive claim this the EU’s answer the dominance of US tech giants over online spaces. PSL disagrees, and it’s our opinion that this new directive will stifle innovation, and the openness we’ve come to know about the internet.
How does this affect US-based companies? Anyone developing a platform with EU users that involves content or link sharing will face massive uncertainty. The ramifications of this new directive include blocking features or preventing the development of features that internet users currently expect, and in exchange will force companies to now implement a very expensive ineffective and inaccurate automated filtering systems. Without a doubt, this new directive will have a negative effect on the EU’s digital economies.
How will this effect streamers, and content creators? The rollout of the new directive across the EU over the next two years will tell the story. However, PSL predicts this will have a massive effect on live streaming altogether. It’s very possible we will see a world were EU citizens will no longer have access to US-based live streams, and live streaming services such as Twitch. The expense imposed by the directive to police content for copyrighted material may be too much for service providers like Twitch, and in turn, may opt for blocking EU access to US-based streams and content. For now, it’s a massive wait and see game.
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