On Thursday, the European Commission posted — on its official Medium page — an astoundingly juvenile and obnoxious post, lashing out at those who have complained that Articles 11 and 13 in the EU Copyright Directive will be destructive. The post was snide and condescending, and suggested that most of the opposition was fake and “astroturfed” and that anyone who really believed that the EU Copyright Directive was a problem was brainwashed by Google and Facebook. It was… quite a post. On Friday evening, I wrote up a (mostly) line-by-line response to its utter nonsense and planned to post it this week once people were back in the office to review it. However, on Saturday, after widespread criticism, the EU Commission “removed” the post without an apology — but with the standard cop out of someone who did something bad but can’t admit it:
We have removed this article as it has been understood in a way that doesn’t reflect the Commission’s position.
“… it has been understood…” Not “we wrote an insulting, misleading and condescending article that we shouldn’t have posted.” Not, “we’re sorry that we lashed out at the public we’re supposed to represent.” No, it’s all your fault in that you “misunderstood” our obnoxious, snide remarks to be both obnoxious and snide.
Given that so many people missed it and that I already had this post written with much of the original quoted — what follows is my original post.
This is quite incredible. Earlier this year, we wrote about the Legislative Affairs Committee of the EU Parliament putting out a “Q and A” page about the EU Copyright Directive that was so full of wrong that it was insulting. However, now it appears that the EU Commission has decided to one up its colleagues in the Parliament by posting an article to Medium of all places (one of the many sites that will be massively harmed by the Directive) insisting that you’re all fools for thinking that anything bad might happen, and that it’s all the fault of Google/Facebook. Thankfully, for at least the time being, I am free to quote large parts of their article and respond to it without having to “buy a license” from the Commission, so let’s take advantage of that remaining bit of freedom.
Take this test: Type in ‘EU Copyright Directive’ into the search box in Youtube. The majority of results in the top 20 will be passionately against it. Here’s some of the headlines, if you’re not sure:
‘Shocking update on the Copyright Directive.’ ‘Today Europe lost the Internet’ ‘How the new copyright laws will destroy the internet’ ‘Censorship machines’, ‘EU to end the internet’ or ‘Europe to ban all memes’
Of course, we know from recent elections and referendums that simple memorable slogans — however untrue or unobtainable — can go a long way to winning over hearts, minds and voters. And so it was, that the wholly inaccurate phrases ‘ link taxes ‘ and ‘ censorship machines ‘ started to be part of the campaign against the proposed Copyright Directive. Never let the truth get in the way of a catchy slogan.
Note the opening here is dripping with condescension, suggesting that even though basically everyone is not only against this law, but speaking out against it, they’re all just silly fools, tricked by a slogan. Note that this does not respond to any of the massive problems many, many experts have raised about the approach in the Copyright Directive — especially on Articles 11 and 13. It just sneers about what it says are inaccurate phrases (spoiler alert: those phrases are not inaccurate).
The idea behind the Directive is to bring copyright rules into the 21st century. The current rules are very analogue and designed for the world before the web. Things have changed. Search and social media platforms largely define the way we enjoy content today, but their market dominance has now tilted the balance in their favour and away from those who design and create original things.
This is hogwash. The “laws” they are trying to change include things like the EU’s E-Commerce Directive that was (oh, look at that) passed in the 21st Century, when the web was already around and thriving. Second, the idea that search and social media platforms have “tilted the balance… away from those who design and create original things” is ludicrous. As we’ve shown for years, the internet has given a massive boost to content creation — enabling more creation in nearly every single category. It has made it easier to create, produce, release, distribute, share, build a fan base and to make money than at any time in history. The internet has enabled more people than ever before in history to not just create, but to make money from their creations.
If you want to know who it’s tilted the playing field against, it’s the legacy gatekeepers: the old record labels, movie studios and publishers, who used to operate in an oligopolistic world, with little competition, where they could demand all of the rights from creators in exchange for a small chance of success — and if success came, those gatekeepers would still suck up nearly all of the rewards. Can anyone tell me if Return of the Jedi is profitable yet? Has Lyle Lovett’s record label paid him a dime yet? Meanwhile, artists who are embracing the internet are finding that it can pay off massively.
The world of Article 11 and 13 is a move towards going back to the old system. To force artists and creators into the arms of a small group of gatekeepers who decide if you can even post your content online at all, let alone try to make money from it. For the EU Commission to repeat a completely made up myth that artists are somehow worse off today is not just revisionist history bullshit, it’s insulting.
As it stands, big internet platforms such as Facebook or Google make a lot of money from ads that appear on their sites alongside copyrighted material such as music or clips. The more people view, the more money platforms can earn from those adverts.
Very little of the content appearing on Facebook and Google is infringing. Yes, both sites will send a lot of traffic to content elsewhere, and make money on ads from that service, but that’s different. Meanwhile, both Google and Facebook have spent many millions of dollars on automated filters to block out infringing content (or to allow copyright holders to monetize that content). So if the idea is to attack those companies with a new law requiring such filters, how does this law “improve” anything?
Answer: it does not. The new law is designed to ramp up the liability even higher — such that when such filters fail (and they always fail because it is impossible to get right), the fines will be catastrophic. As such, the entire point of Articles 11 and 13 is to be so ridiculous and so draconian, that Google and Facebook would have no choice but to pay up to avoid getting hit with tons of lawsuits. It’s an extortionate plan, put together by the EU bureaucrats, to favor legacy gatekeepers.
Just as Google and Facebook are being rewarded financially for all their hard work in producing amazing software, clever algorithms and exciting designs, we think authors, film-makers, journalists and musicians should also be rewarded for their endeavours too. At the moment the balance of power in who gets paid for such royalties resides overwhelmingly with the big Californian companies — who are worth around $1 Trillion.
This implies — totally falsely — that “authors, film makers, journalists and musicians” are not being rewarded today for their endeavors. They are. Some successfully. Some unsuccessfully. Demanding that EVERY INTERNET COMPANY that hosts content (not just Google and Facebook) cough up massive sums of money to gatekeepers (who have a history of not paying actual creators) doesn’t seem like a smart path forward. It sounds like an utterly corrupt one.
The Copyright Directive is an attempt to create a level playing field where everyone can gain from the amazing options that the new technologies offer. Musicians, artists, video producers and the whole creative sector will benefit by having a fairer negotiating position.
“Everyone can gain”? By making platforms no longer work? By making it impossible to post and share content? By forcing small companies out of business? By killing off the ways in which many independent creators now earn their livings? The EU Commission is so bizarrely disconnected from reality.
Journalists and online publications will have more money to keep on financing quality research and news. Despite what you might read, the Copyright directive supports a free press and could enable journalists to get some money when their articles are shared online. Good journalism costs money and without a free press there is no democracy.
Remember, Article 11 has already been tried in both Germany and Spain, and failed in both places. It did not lead to more money for journalists or publications. It did not help support a free press. It actually harmed a free press. How the EU Commission can just push out blatant lies without people laughing at them is beyond me.
Fair remuneration for and from the platforms and a fairer market place is what we want. We cannot achieve a real European digital single market which makes us all better off, if copyrighted material is misused or poorly remunerated. Because if creative people don’t get paid, they can’t afford to be creative. No Mon = No Fun
Define “fair”? Is it “fair” that Return of the Jedi never made a profit and people who were supposed to share in its profits never did so? Is it fair that Lyle Lovett never received any royalties? It does seem fair that artists who build up a strong fan base, like Amanda Palmer, are able to earn a really nice living supported by her fans. It will be too bad when the platforms that helped her do so — like Patreon and Kickstarter — find that they are unworkable under Article 13. That seems… unfair. And again, right now more artists than ever before are getting paid. And that’s happening because of the internet that Article 13 will fundamentally change.
And, uh, “no mon = no fun”? Isn’t this the same damn post where the EU Commission itself was mocking “slogans”? But let’s be clear here: there is currently both more “mon” and more “fun” based on literally every single study of the market place today. The internet has enabled wild creativity — but also tremendous remuneration. The real problem that the EU Commission has is that this is now being spread around much further, and the old gatekeepers with their strong lobbying relationships aren’t able to capture as much of it.
The EU Copyright Directive is corrupt cronyism at its worst.
Just like everyone else, the EU loves culture, cinema, art and music. We have no intention in restricting young people’s access to all these wonderful things on- or offline. Oh and by the way, no matter what some people (and paid-for campaigns) may tell you, you will never be prevented from having a laugh online. WE ARE NOT BANNING MEMES. On the contrary, there will be a guarantee that platforms respect your right to self-expression. That includes pastiche, critique and parody.
They keep saying this and it is nonsense. They demand filters — and then say that platforms will have to “nerd harder” to figure out how not to use those filters to block memes. What they ignore (purposefully, because this has been explained in great detail) is that no filter can understand the context to recognize what is a “meme” or what is parody. Indeed, popular memes have been at the center of multiple copyright cases.
Nonetheless, it appears as if the largest search and video platforms in the world are afraid of regulation — despite having overwhelming dominance on the internet.
This might be the only accurate statement in this whole damn article. They may very well be afraid of regulation. And maybe for good reasons — because such regulation will massively and fundamentally change the very nature of the internet — not just for themselves, but for everyone else as well. That’s the concern.
Furthermore, there is ample evidence from respected sources, here and here and perhaps here or here or indeed here that ‘Big Technology’ has even ‘created’ grassroots campaigns against the Copyright Directive in order to make it look and sound as if the EU is acting against the ‘will of the people’.
This is the absolute most disgusting part of this. In one paragraph — much of it linking to a group of people known for (a) being paid by competitors to Google or (b) conspiracy-theory levels of insanity regarding the internet — the European Commission simply brushes away millions of citizens and their views. While it’s entirely possible that the big internet companies are pushing their viewpoint here, the above paragraph is overly inflated nonsense. The public is going crazy about this, in large part because of nonsense like this that is being put out, where it is clear that the bureaucrats in Brussels don’t know (a) how the internet works, (b) what this law will actually do, or (c) what the public is actually saying.
Over at Change.org there’s a petition protesting this with nearly 5 million signatures, making it the largest petition in Change.org’s entire history. You don’t fake that. People are angry. And with good reason, when the bureaucrats, who are supposed to represent their interests, are spewing utter nonsense along these lines.
And the most incredible part? Right after totally dismissing the views of the vast majority of the public, these numbskulls state the following:
That’s another myth. Unlike Google and Facebook, the EU is answerable to the public and to democratically elected politicians.
Answerable to the public? You just pretended the views of the public weren’t legitimate. You ignored the largest petition in history. You are not representing the interests of the public, but rather a very small legacy industry which failed to adapt. The whole thing is completely disgusting.