Will the European Union ruin the internet?

A committee of MEPs has voted to accept major changes to European copyright law, which experts say could change the nature of the internet.

They voted to approve the controversial Article 13, which critics warn could put an end to memes, remixes and other user-generated content.

Article 11, requiring online platforms to pay publishers a fee if they link to their news content, was also approved.

One organisation opposed to the changes called it a “dark day”.

The European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs voted by 15 votes to 10 to adopt Article 13 and by 13 votes to 12 to adopt Article 11.

It will now go to the wider European Parliament to vote on in July.

…Article 11 has been called the “link tax” by opponents.

Here is further information.  If ever there was a case for Brexit…

For the pointer I thank Saku.


Thank goodness for Brexit, then?

>If ever there was a case for Brexit

There are hundreds of thousands of them, of course.

Let's give a mock cheer for Tyler for actually finding one!

Baby steps. He’ll be changing the MR motto to “MAGA” in a year.

I would say it is more likely that the lack of true internet access (only having the ability to access the "walled EU internet") will ruin the institutions and people of the EU than the EU having the ability to "ruin the internet".

Each of the multitude of agreement clicks we have all had to make recently translates as "The EU is not competent to regulate technology". It will be interesting to see just how far the EU gets before it becomes glaringly obvious to all concerned that they are making fools of themselves.

Never mind "Sic semper tyrannis". Never mind "Who's next?" My latest submission for phrases threatening to authority is "Do you really think that's wise, sir?" - which if you search you will find is a lesser meme.

"to see just how far the EU gets before it becomes glaringly obvious to all concerned that they are making fools of themselves"

That's been clear for some time now.

The incompetence of the EU to regulate technical fields has been manifest to all for many years. Everything from pesticides to biofuels to GM foods and internet use has suffered from the interference of these buffoons.

You'd like to think it was just plain incompetence/stupidity, but EU regulations originate from a toxic mix of lobbyists, bureaucrats, and virtue-signalling soft-left politicians. Failure isn't a accident; its a consequence of the system.

Brexit advocates have been screaming about this sort of stuff for years. Nice of Tyler to finally notice.

You do know that your current Prime Minister is considerably more opposed to a free Internet than that toxic EU mix of lobbyists, bureaucrats, and virtue-signalling soft-left politicians?

At least based on her years as Home Secretary, where no attempt to snoop or censor was considered too outrageous for her not to support.

If May (along with the Tories) is your hope for avoiding a locked down Internet in the UK, time to get your VPN connection secure now.

Best hope at this point is that the full European Parliament will reject this.

And you do know that British votes for on the committee were 1 for, and one who did not vote, right?

Plus, you are also aware of May's perspectives on the Internet, right?

'May's first suggestion is turning minds away from violence so that the populace “understand that our values – pluralistic, British values – are superior to anything offered by the preachers and supporters of hate.”

The second concerns the internet, as follows:

Second, we cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed. Yet that is precisely what the internet – and the big companies that provide internet-based services – provide. We need to work with allied, democratic governments to reach international agreements that regulate cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremism and terrorist planning. And we need to do everything we can at home to reduce the risks of extremism online.' https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/06/05/theresa_may_london_terror_attack_response/

Nothing new for May, who has quite the record in wanting to regulate the Internet. The Register is a good resource, with headlines like this -

'Here we go again... UK Prime Minister urges nerds to come up with magic crypto backdoors'

'UK Prime Minister calls on internet big beasts to 'auto-takedown' terror pages within 2 HOURS'

'France and UK want to make web firms liable for users' content'

Don't count on May (and do note that the UK MEP that voted for is Labour) to magically undo laws, like this, that she already apparently considers far too lax.

But yes, this looks about as bad as the DMCA (which had a broader reach than simply the Internet, back when physical media were more important than today).

So suppose companies and individuals outside the EU ignore this law if it becomes operational. Then the EU bans non-compliant sources. How exactly? A Great European Firewall now? Except this one has to get down to the individual level if even sharing a meme is forbidden.

People are implementing their own firewalls. They fear that the EU will somehow make their life expensive if they completely ignore the rules, so they just block users from the EU.

honestly, if it's gonna be a cage match between the EU and internet memes, I fear for the future of the EU

As amusing a notion as that is, its appeal is largely to those who spend too much of their time online, and mistake the internet for the real world.

Nope. The internet is the cave wall. The memes are handprints on handprints. Same as it always was.

No way people will stop putting their print right there for everyone to see.

(As a throwback, "Copyleft" tried to formalize iterative and derivative creation, but it too lost to a general disrespect for rules.)

It might save it. We've seen politicians slowly degrade the platform, with the Chinese firewall, the British firewall, GEMA, Japanese isolationism, attempts to implement SOPA piecemeal. These have taught some users of the affected countries to use VPN, but ultimately we need a nice big law to show all users how much the State cares for them. That will make it possible to move to a truly decentralized system. Until then we're stuck with gradual degradation that isn't annoying enough to get the critical mass to migrate.

Don't expect mesh networks to appear any time soon - those are hated by everyone interested in controlling/making money from transmitting data packets. And certainly have some challenges in moving large amounts of data - though the bittorrent protocol at least offers a way of looking for answers, as an inspiration as a way to get around some bandwidth restrictions.

It may surprise many people to know that the concept of a mesh network was described by a British inventor in the 1960s, Alec Reeves who was one of the pioneers of PCM. The application was for mobile telephones to form meshes so that people could communicate when using motorways. Ironically the use of mobiles when driving is now realised to be a safety hazard.

Strange, I remember just a few years ago Europeans telling us that it was the Americans and TTIP that were going to usher in the draconian IP laws...

Europe has always had more draconian IP laws.

However, most of the European objection to TTIP were based not on IP, but food safety (though with Brexit, it looks like the British may be finally blessed with chlorine washed chicken) and the idea that companies would be above national law (as demonstrated in this concrete Australian case (which Australia finally won, but only because the arbitration company punted, not because of a fundamental disavowal of the concept) - 'Australia has won an international legal battle to uphold its world-leading tobacco control measures, with Philip Morris failing in its long-running attempt to challenge plain packaging laws under a bilateral trade agreement with Hong Kong.

The decision could give other countries greater confidence to follow Australia’s lead in outlawing tobacco company logos on cigarette packets and moving to drab, uniform designs dominated by graphic health warnings.

Philip Morris Asia Limited launched its challenge against the Australian government in 2011, seeking to rely on an argument that the ban on trademarks breached foreign investment provisions of Australia’s 1993 Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with Hong Kong.

But the arbitral tribunal has declined jurisdiction to hear the case, the company said in a statement issued on Friday.' https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/dec/18/australia-wins-international-legal-battle-with-philip-morris-over-plain-packaging

I often wash raw chicken before I cook it. I have no problem at all to it being washed in a suitably mild detergent before packaging.

Well, you might want to read this then - 'The microbiological safety of fresh produce is monitored almost exclusively by culture-based detection methods. However, bacterial food-borne pathogens are known to enter a viable-but-nonculturable (VBNC) state in response to environmental stresses such as chlorine, which is commonly used for fresh produce decontamination. Here, complete VBNC induction of green fluorescent protein-tagged Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella enterica serovar Thompson was achieved by exposure to 12 and 3 ppm chlorine, respectively. The pathogens were subjected to chlorine washing following incubation on spinach leaves. Culture data revealed that total viable L. monocytogenes and Salmonella Thompson populations became VBNC by 50 and 100 ppm chlorine, respectively, while enumeration by direct viable counting found that chlorine caused a <1-log reduction in viability. The pathogenicity of chlorine-induced VBNC L. monocytogenes and Salmonella Thompson was assessed by using Caenorhabditis elegans. Ingestion of VBNC pathogens by C. elegans resulted in a significant life span reduction (P = 0.0064 and P < 0.0001), and no significant difference between the life span reductions caused by the VBNC and culturable L. monocytogenes treatments was observed. L. monocytogenes was visualized beyond the nematode intestinal lumen, indicating resuscitation and cell invasion. These data emphasize the risk that VBNC food-borne pathogens could pose to public health should they continue to go undetected.' http://mbio.asm.org/content/9/2/e00540-18.full

Since chlorine washed chicken is not available legally in the EU/UK, that was not tested. The mechanism - and agents - remains the same, however.

Maybe not your taste, but this Guardian article sheds a bit of light on why American chicken needs to be washed with chlorine - https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/26/chicken-health-fear-chlorine-washing-fails-bacteria-tests-brexit-salmonella-listeria

And really, who would you trust, American poultry producers or some UK scientists? - 'Previous studies with similar findings have been dismissed by the US poultry industry as producing “laboratory-only” results with no relevance to the real world. “We therefore tested the strains of listeria and salmonella that we had chlorine-washed on nematodes [roundworms], which have a relatively complex digestive system,” said Professor William Keevil, who led the university team. “All of them died. Many companies and scientists have built their reputations promoting anti-microbial products. This research questions everything they’ve done.”

The study tested contaminated spinach, but Keevil insists the findings apply equally to chicken. “This is very concerning,” he said. The issue, he argues, is less to do with the chicken itself, the contamination of which can be managed by thorough cooking. “It’s that chlorine-washed chicken, giving the impression of being safe, can then cross-contaminate the kitchen.”'

Raw chicken should never be washed. It brings a significant risk of cross contamination with campylobacter. USDA advice is much the same. Never wash raw chicken.


This and the GDPR are motivated by the same concerns. If you want a hint as to what motivated the latter, this is a good example. And it's not about protecting the consumer. Can you point to any major consumer movements in Europe pushing for these rules? This is another protectionist move by the EU attempting to claw back business and influence from large US tech companies (whether they succeed is a different issue). And, countries (including the US) can always resort to huge fines, too! Who needs tariffs? They're too transparent and you'll get a pack of economists on your back quoting passages from their favorite textbook .

Pretty much all data-privacy groups praise the GDPR. The industry doesn't seem to mind much. Many are implementing the new protection globally. None of the big players has withdrawn from the European market.

"The industry doesn't seem to mind much. Many are implementing the new protection globally. None of the big players has withdrawn from the European market."

That's not the least bit surprising. In the end, big players really don't mind regulations that hamstring smaller competitors. Google has the resources to implement GDPR changes, while many smaller firms will struggle and may stop or avoid doing business in the EU rather than re-architect their systems.

I don't think that is what the latest copyright directive does. The preamble specifically mentions the need for "proportionality", i.e., big players are treated differently (para 38e). In fact, the following definition seems directed primarily at youtube (and Google, etc, although it is terribly vague):

"‘online content sharing service provider’ means a provider of an information society service whose main or one of the main purposes is to store and give the public access to a large amount of works or other subject-matter uploaded by its users which it organises and promotes for profit-making purposes."


See also Axa's comment below.

"The industry doesn't seem to mind much"

The industry is paying quite big sums of money to be compliant. I just wonder what a cost-benefit analysis would show. This is not small change.

' Can you point to any major consumer movements in Europe pushing for these rules?'

For Datenschutz? Sure - https://www.verbraucherzentrale.de/ If you read German, the 'consumer central' organization points out all the advantages involved in consumers finally having a degree of legal data privacy - https://www.verbraucherzentrale.de/wissen/digitale-welt/datenschutz/ihre-daten-ihre-rechte-die-datenschutzgrundverordnung-dsgvo-25152

Oddly, though, that same umbrella organization is completely opposed to the proposed copyright reform, almost as if to Germans, these are two completely separate things.

In case not everybody catches the sarcasm in prior's post:
The GDPR protects consumer rights against corporate interests. Article 13, in contrast, satisfies publishers' greed to the detriment of consumers and free speech. Fundamentally different approaches, clearly.

Article 13 seems targeted at youtube.

Today, a youtube user can upload a pirated music album. If someone complains the video is taken down. youtube states that the liability is on the user uploading the content, and that they put big effort into removing pirated content.

Are they really putting big effort into enforcing copyright laws? Search for an album and you'll find it, thus no. What about some porn? Somehow, it's impossible to find porn on youtube. It's quite curious that they can censor porn and not enforce copyright rules.

Article 13 tries implies the EU is not buying anymore the idea of "the user is liable for content uploads, not us". It puts more pressure on youtube. Will it kill the internet? No. It's just balancing things.

YouTube is quite good (from the content owner's perspective) at enforcing copyright, the music on it is there by the consent or acquiescence of the rights holder and they get paid for it. Search for discussion of "content id".

'YouTube is quite good (from the content owner's perspective) at enforcing copyright'

Not big EU copyright owners, they continue to hate youtube with a fiery passion. Along with the pirate bay, of course.

I hope so, the internet has made the entire world deranged.

No, that's like saying the invention of indoor lighting made everyone's homes dirty. It just caused you to notice.

Yes, America, CNN and CBS and NYT and the White House Press Corps have _ALWAYS_ been this biased and deceptive. Think about that.

Article 13 has been pushed by the German conservatives (CDU/CSU) who are in the pocket of a major publishing house, Axel Springer. The publisher is seeking a guaranteed income in the digital age. An 'ancillary copyright for press publishers' that has come into effect in Germany in 2012 has been a costly failure.

The same one that locks up lots of academic papers.

A smaller version of this passed in Spain a few years ago, and it didn't really go like publishers expected: Instead of getting sweet aggregator money, the aggregators walked away from Spain, as Google News is not exactly a huge source of money for Google. Value destroyed, and little else was accomplished.

I understand that life is hard for them: In a world where the way to make money involves tremendous scale, not being in English or all that relevant outside one's borders is makes things difficult. A press that is ultimately a money loser, but is a winner for someone else because they get a lot of value out of editorial control is probably where we are heading.

After that happened, what shifted about how people in Spain read news? Was something else substituted for their use of aggregators?

(your hypothesis about the future is horrifying but entirely plausible...)

So, every time MR links to an article or quotes from it, it will have to pay a fee to the publisher.

Sounds like you are eliminating free riding and protecting intellectual property.

What it really means is that aggregators will have to pay license fees for content and share ad revenue.

Publishers are the free riders, benefiting from increased traffic thanks to other people's links. But free isn't enough for them---now they want to be paid for other people's work.

How is linking to someone else's work free riding? If they wanted to charge for it they need to implement a paywall. If they didnt, then linking to it is merely drawing attention to something that is already available for free.

Since they have the right to create a paywall, they also have the right to do something less than that which still preserves their intellectual property rights.

Publishers are the free riders, benefiting from increased traffic thanks to other people's links. But free isn't enough for them---now they want to be paid for other people's work.

Perhaps European users should print out all of Wikipedia while they still can, for what is Wikipedia other than a massive collection of links to other works? I understand the EU is trying to carve out some exception for non-profit encyclopedias but Wikipedia's CC_BY_SA license explicitly allows all reuse, including commercial uses, and that is not something that can be changed for all extant content.

Wikipedia is very careful with respecting copyright. The text in wikipedia's pages is original content created by wikipedia's users. There knowledge comes from books, journal papers, videos, etc that they summarize and synthesis with their own words, which is perfectly legal (and actually intended for -- I was happy the first time a paper of me was quoted by wikipedia).

I think you are missing the point. Article 11 requires online platforms to pay a licensing fee to link to external news content. Wikipedia is a huge pile of such external links. Either they'd need to remove the links and re-cite all relevant sections, or pay a licensing fee. Wikipedia is a non-profit entity with very little operating budget.

Beyond that, you say that "the text in wikipedia's pages is original content", but that's only true in spirit and there is no hard system in place to enforce it. Someone can go and quote your paper verbatim in a wiki article, and nothing would stop them. If Article 13 would go into effect Wikipedia would need to implement a massive automated content recognition system to prevent this, as well as hire manual reviewers to analyze claims. That is also very costly.

This seems a bit overblown to me, even though I'm not particularly in favor of it. You can basically cut-and-paste in the arguments of the defenders of the recent net-neutrality roll-back: it probably just isn't going to change that much.

Beveridge's Law wins again.

I know it's only a committee vote but isn't this the kind of thing that should be decided by more than 25 people???

How about Net Neutrality and the plans of China. European Union can't afford to leave it to the hands of the US: loony Administration, messianism and preppers in Silicon Valley...

A libertarian blog but nobody talks about free speech? What's got into you guys?

I am very surprised by the comments here and the original post. Have everyone become communist overnight here at MO ? This is just a law fine-tuning the repression of theft of intellectual property. Youtube for example allows access to million of videos under copyright without the agreement of the copyright holder, which is a crime (in bot the US and Europe). Google's new aggregator misconduct is more subtle, because google is using an exception in copyright law allowing "short citations for illustration and criticism": Google uses only short citations from news media, and pretends it is covered by the exception, but in fact copies so many short citations from so many articles that is covers almost all the information contained in the article cited. The new law will simply closes
this loophole.

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