YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki published her quarterly letter to creators today, which included very strong language regarding the EU’s controversialcopyright reform directive. Specifically, her letter focused on Article 13, the so-called “meme ban” that states that any site with a large amount of user-generated content – like Facebook or YouTube, for example – will be responsible for taking down content that infringes on copyright. Wojcicki says the way this legislation is written could “shut down the ability” of millions of people to upload to YouTube.
The legislation she’s referring to is Article 13 of the European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, which the EU Parliament just recently voted to back. The Directive contains several parts, including another concerning “link tax,” which gives publishers the right to ask for paid licenses when online platforms share their articles and stories.
But YouTube is most concerned with Article 13, which impacts sites with user-generated content. In order to comply with the law, sites like YouTube would have to automatically scan and filter user uploads to ensure they aren’t in violation of copyright.
But today, users often express themselves by sampling, remixing, and creating content using music, pictures and videos that would otherwise be considered copyrighted material. However, even though memes and parodies are protected by previous laws (in some countries), these upload filters wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a copyright violation and a meme – and they’d block content that should be allowed. This is how Article 13 became to be known as the “meme ban.”
However, the language in legislation isn’t clear on how enforcement should take place – it doesn’t say, for example, that sites have to use upload filters. Others believe that YouTube’s existing Content ID system, which scans videos after upload, would be sufficient.
YouTube, for its part, seems to be believe that Article 13 will require more than the existing Content ID system to be compliant.
Writes Wojcicki, “Article 13 as written threatens to shut down the ability of millions of people — from creators like you to everyday users — to upload content to platforms like YouTube. It threatens to block users in the EU from viewing content that is already live on the channels of creators everywhere. This includes YouTube’s incredible video library of educational content, such as language classes, physics tutorials and other how-to’s,” she says.
The CEO also says Article 13 will threaten “thousands of jobs” – meaning those of EU-based content creators, businesses, and artists.
And she warns that YouTube may have to take down content from smaller, original video creators, as it would be liable for that content, saying:
The proposal could force platforms, like YouTube, to allow only content from a small number of large companies. It would be too risky for platforms to host content from smaller original content creators, because the platforms would now be directly liable for that content. We realize the importance of all rights holders being fairly compensated, which is why we built Content ID, and a platform to pay out all types of content owners. But the unintended consequences of article 13 will put this ecosystem at risk.
The company wants to weigh in on how the legislation is worded to protect its interests, and those of the larger creator community. Wojcicki said YouTube is committed to working with the industry to find a better way respect the rights of copyright holders, before the language in the EU legislation is finalized by year-end.
Other changes include expansion of memberships, premieres
While YouTube’s comments on Article 13 were the key part of today’s letter, Wojcicki also updated the community on its priorities for 2018.
This included an update on its plans to better communicate with creators, which it says it accomplished by increasing the number of product updates and “heads up” messages regarding changes to YouTube, including smaller tests or experiments, on its @TeamYouTube handle and the Creator Insider channel, in addition to its launch of YouTube Studio, where creators can read all the news and product updates.
Newly launched channel memberships are also expanding their rollout, with the threshold now being lowered from 100,000 to 50,000 subscribers. Meanwhile, the new Premieres feature is now publicly available to all creators.
Congressman Ro Khanna’s proposed Internet Bill of Rights pushes individual rights on the Internet forward in a positive manner. It provides guidelines for critical elements where the United States’ and the world’s current legislation is lacking, and it packages it in a way that speaks to all parties. The devil, as always, is in the details—and Congressman Khanna’s Internet Bill of Rights still leaves quite a bit to subjective interpretation.
But what should not be neglected is that we as individuals have not just rights but also moral obligations to this public good—the Internet. The web positively impacts our lives in a meaningful fashion, and we have a collective responsibility to nurture and keep it that way.
Speaking to the specific rights listed in the Bill, we can likely all agree that citizens should have control over information collected about them, and that we should not be discriminated against based on that personal data. We probably all concur that Internet Service Providers should not be permitted to block, throttle, or engage in paid prioritization that would negatively impact our ability to access the world’s information. And I’m sure we all want access to numerous affordable internet providers with clear and transparent pricing.
These are all elements included in Congressman Khanna’s proposal; all things that I wholeheartedly support.
As we’ve seen of late with Facebook, Google, and other large corporations, there is an absolute need to bring proper legislation into the digital age. Technological advancements have progressed far faster than regulatory changes, and drastic improvements are needed to protect users.
What we must understand, however, is that corporations, governments, and individuals all rely on the same Internet to prosper. Each group should have its own set of rights as well as responsibilities. And it’s those responsibilities that need more focus.
Take, for example, littering. There may be regulations in place that prevent people from discarding their trash by the side of the road. But regardless of these laws, there’s also a moral obligation we have to protect our environment and the world in which we live. For the most part, people abide by these obligations because it’s the right thing to do and because of social pressure to keep the place they live beautiful—not because they have a fear of being fined for littering.
We should approach the protection of the Internet in the same way.
We should hold individuals, corporations, and governments to a higher standard and delineate their responsibilities to the Internet. All three groups should accept and fulfill those responsibilities, not because we create laws and fines, but because it is in their best interests.
For individuals, the Internet has given them powers beyond their wildest dreams and it continues to connect us in amazing ways. For corporations, it has granted access to massively lucrative markets far and wide that would never have been accessible before. For governments, it has allowed them to provide better services to their citizens and has created never before seen levels of tax revenue from the creation of businesses both between and outside their physical borders.
Everyone — and I mean everyone — has gained (and will continue to gain) from protecting an open Internet, and we as a society need to recognize that and start imposing strong pressure against those who do not live up to their responsibilities.
We as people of the world should feel tremendously grateful to all the parties that contributed to the Internet we have today. If a short-sighted government decides it wants to restrict the Internet within its physical borders, this should not be permitted. It will not only hurt us, but it will hurt that very government by decreasing international trade and thus tax revenue, as well as decreasing the trust that the citizens of that country place in their government. Governments often act against their long-term interests in pursuit of short-term thinking, thus we have 2 billion people living in places with heavy restrictions on access to online information.
When an Internet Service Provider seeks full control over what content it provides over its part of the Internet, this, again, should not be allowed. It will, in the end, hurt that very Internet Service Provider’s revenue; a weaker, less diverse Internet will inevitably create less demand for the very service they are providing along with a loss of trust and loyalty from their customers.
Without the Internet, our world would come grinding to a halt. Any limitations on the open Internet will simply slow our progress and prosperity as a human race. And, poignantly, the perpetrators of those limitations stand to lose just as much as any of us.
We have a moral responsibility, then, to ensure the Internet remains aligned with its original purpose. Sure, none of us could have predicted the vast impact the World Wide Web would have back in 1989—probably not even Sir Tim Berners-Lee himself—but in a nutshell, it exists to connect people, WHEREVER they may be, to a wealth of online information, to other people, and to empower individuals to make their lives better.
This is only possible with an open and free Internet.
Over the next five years, billions of devices—such as our garage door openers, refrigerators, thermostats, and mattresses—will be connected to the web via the Internet of Things. Further, five billion users living in developing markets will join the Internet for the first time, moving from feature phones to smartphones. These two major shifts will create incredible opportunities for good, but also for exploiting our data—making us increasingly vulnerable as Internet users.
Now is the time to adequately provide Americans and people around the world with basic online protections, and it is encouraging to see people like Congressman Khanna advancing the conversation. We can only hope this Internet Bill of Rights remains bipartisan and real change occurs.
Regardless of the outcome, we must not neglect our moral obligations—whether individual Internet users, large corporations, or governments. We all shoulder a responsibility to maintain an open Internet. After all, it is perhaps the most significant and impactful creation in modern society.
Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google’s head of commerce, is leaving the company after more than 15 years and will be joining Greylock Partners, sources inside the company told us and Google confirmed. Ramaswamy will become a venture partner at Greylock Partners . At Google, his position will be filled by Prabhakar Raghavan, who was previously the company’s VP of apps for Google Cloud.
While at Google, Ramaswamy oversaw virtually all of Google’s Ads and Commerce products — that is, basically everything outside of the Google Cloud that makes the company most of its money. Ramaswamy joined Google as an engineer, but quickly moved up in the company’s ranks. He took his current position back in 2014, after Susan Wojcicki moved to YouTube.
At Greylock, Ramaswamy will focus on earlier-stage entrepreneurial projects.
Prabhakar Raghavan, vice president of engineering and products at Google Inc., speaks during the company’s Cloud Next ’18 event in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, July 24, 2018.
Google’s advertising revenue still accounts for 84 percent of the total revenue of Alphabet. Last quarter, Google’s advertising revenues came in at over $28 billion. Annual revenue for 2017 was over $110 billion. It’s no secret, though, that Google has struggled to build a stronger commerce business, with projects like Google Express falling relatively flat as its competitors continue to grow.
Raghavan, who will take his place, joined Google in 2012, after a seven-year stint as executive VP and head of Yahoo Labs, which he founded. Like Ramaswamy before him, Raghavan will focus on products while Philipp Schindler will continue in his role as Google’s Chief Business Officer, working side-by-side with Raghavan.
Before Yahoo, Raghavan was the chief technology officer at Verity and worked at IBM Research. He is also the author of two computer science textbooks.
In a world where nothing can be trusted and fake news abounds, ICO and crypto teams are further muddying the waters by trying – and often failing – to pay for posts. While bribes for blogs is nothing new, sadly the current crop of ICO creators and crypto projects are particularly interested in scaling fast and many ICO CEOs are far happier with scammy multi-level marketing tricks than real media relations.
The worst part of this spammy, scammy ecosystem is the service providers. A new group of media organizations are appearing where pay-to-post is the norm rather than the rare exception. I’ve been looking at these groups for a while now and recently found a few egregious examples.
But first some background.
Oh yeah, Mr. Smart Guy? How do I get press?
Say you’re trying to publicize a startup. You’ve emailed all the big names in the industry and the emails have gone unanswered. Your product is about to flounder on the market without users and you can’t get any because, in perfect chicken-or-egg fashion, you can’t get funding without users and you can’t get users without funding. So isn’t it a good idea to pay a few dollars for a little press?
And isn’t most PR just pay-for-post anyway?
PR people are consummate networkers and are paid to reach out to media on your behalf and their particular set of skills, honed over long careers, are dedicated to breaking down the forcefield between the journalist and the outside world. They are your surrogate hustlers, dedicated to getting you more exposure. A good PR person is worth their weight in gold. They can call up a popular journalist and make a simple pitch: “This cool new thing is happening. Can I put you in touch?”
If a journalist’s mission is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted, a good PR person makes the comfortable look slightly afflicted in order to give the journalist a better story. Also, like velociraptors, they are tenacious and will follow up multiple times on your behalf.
A bad PR person, on the other hand, will cold-call hundreds of journalists and read a script that is half the length of Moby Dick. They produce little more than spam and their efforts begin and end with pressing the “Send” button. It’s also interesting to note that many bad PR people, of late, have found new life as ICO specialists.
Now meet the pay-for-post hucksters. As I wrote before, there is now a subset of the PR world that offers to get your press release or story on the top of various websites for the low, low price of between $500 and $13,000. For example, one set of hucksters created a small business selling posts on Harvard.edu by creating garbage WordPress blogs and posting press releases to increase SEO coverage. Further, I received a document that outlined the prices for placement in various blogs including this one. While it is impossible to buy a post on TechCrunch this way, it doesn’t stop many from trying.
What’s the difference between that price list and the job a PR person will do for you? The difference is trust. A pay-for-post huckster is dependent on convincing poorly paid freelance writers to add links and other dross to their posts in order to get a “placement.” I get requests like this almost every day and almost all the journalists I talked to reported the same.
Some entrepreneurs are savvy enough to avoid these scams. Even more aren’t.
“I’ve never paid since I think it’s almost always a waste of money but I’ve been offered this type of coverage many times,” said Rick Ramos, of HealthJoy.com. “The last offer was for Kathy Ireland’s Worldwide Business… A TV show that I’ve never heard of in my life. I’ve also been approached by niche publications like InsuranceOutlook and HealthCareTechOutlook that want $3,000 for a ‘reprint branding package.’ A quick Alexa.com search shows their rank as 1,725,207 and 1,054,501 globally. I think I get pitched at least every six months for one of these types of packages.
Unfortunately, many of these organizations hide their request for payment until the last minute. That said, how do you know when it’s someone selling pay-for-play vs. a real editor? It’s usually obvious.
“It’s usually pretty easy to sniff out based on their email blast. It’s pretty untargeted with no reference to what your company does or how it related to a story. Some people are up front about the payment but others want a ’15 min call to discuss.’ A quick LinkedIn search always shows them as a sales person versus a reporter or editor,” said Ramos.
It’s getting worse
This is a document I received from a company attempting an ICO. This sort of menu was quite uncommon until fairly recently when the “on-demand” economy melded with PR scammers. The completeness of the document is unique – you could feasibly plan your own PR efforts just by reaching out to journalists who work at all of these places. But you’ll also note that each spot has its own price, often in the low hundreds of dollars, which means that those spots are mostly pay-for-play anyway.
No PR company can promise coverage. In fact, many pay-for-play folks mention this in their communications, hiding it in plain sight. This snippet of text appeared in a contract for work from one of the pay-for-play providers. In short, you’re paying for something they cannot guarantee to get. Interestingly, the PR company below calls their product an IO – an insertion order – which is language used in ad sales. Further, they take great pains in explaining that it is almost impossible to achieve what they promise.
None of the pay-for-post folks I mentioned here would respond to my requests for comment.
Counter-point: Journalists are also at fault
Journalists should never expect money for coverage.
Yet many do.
“Lately I have worked on a number of blockchain technology pieces and I have encountered a wide variety of these asks,” said Brittany Whitmore, CEO at Exvera Communications. “A lot of the new, smaller blockchain-focused outlets seem to do a lot of pay-to-play, likely trying to capitalize on the ICO gold rush. The strangest request that I received was that the outlet would do a an article about the news for free but only if we paid them over $1,000 to promote the article with ads. I did not proceed.”
In one very detailed article on The Outline, Jon Christian explored this world and found that many writers received small sums for a single brand mention in a story, a sort of SEO flogging that rarely helps. He wrote:
The Huffington Post writer also described specific brands he’d written about on behalf of one of the agencies, which ranged from a popular ride-hailing app, to a publicly-traded site for booking flights and hotels, to a large American cell phone service provider.
“This is a classic example of payola,” he said of the brand mentions, invoking a term that’s been used to describe radio DJs who accept payments from record companies in order to play certain artists on the air.
Further, many influencers – folks who sell their Internet fame to the highest bidder – masquerade as journalists, asking for outrageous sums to flog an ICO on their YouTube channel or Instagram page. Pay-for-play services can also put out organic content like this in hopes of appearing in the news.
The rule of thumb? Paid posts and native advertising are not journalism. Ultimately, journalists who charge for coverage are marketers. No one at any reputable news organization will ask for cash but, sadly, there are a number of disreputable news organizations making the rounds.
ICO spamming/Don’t do it
All this still doesn’t answer the question: Should you pay-to-post?
“The short answer is no,” said Kevin Bourke of BourkePR. “I get asked all the time, and in fact, turned down another request just today. And I advise my clients to decline these offers as well.”
Pay-for-post disrupts journalism in a way that should be familiar and desirable to any modern-day entrepreneur. Middlemen are being knocked out everywhere and brands are approaching consumers from every angle including native ads in Instagram and Twitter. But the value of coverage – real coverage – from a journalists perspective is the opportunity to explain complex ideas to a ready audience. While posting a picture of a blockchain on Facebook and hoping for clicks is one strategy, explaining your views, opinions, and insights is far more important even if you approach it from a mercenary position.
“When you start paying for placement, you remove objectivity and credibility, and in my opinion, this is the reason you look for coverage of your company/products in the first place. That’s what influences readers/viewers. But I understand the temptation for startups. You come to believe that ‘all visibility is good visibility.’ I just can’t agree with that,” said Bourke. “I see the trend toward paid placements (now called sponsored content), paid awards and I can’t stand it – especially with the trade show awards in high tech. They’ve completely devalued the Best of Show awards in so many cases. Typically, only the big companies with budgets can afford them, so many of the smaller guys with no money but amazing products get left out. I understand that the publishing industry needs to figure out new revenue streams – these are very difficult times for them. But they need to figure out smarter business models and maintain the integrity of editorialized content, built on the opinions and perspectives of journalists and influencers.”
European Union lawmakers are facing a major vote on digital copyright reform proposals on Wednesday — a process that has set the Internet’s hair fully on fire.
Here’s a run down of the issues and what’s at stake…
The most controversial component of the proposals concerns user-generated content platforms such as YouTube, and the idea they should be made liable for copyright infringements committed by their users — instead of the current regime of takedowns after the fact (which locks rights holders into having to constantly monitor and report violations — y’know, at the same time as Alphabet’s ad business continues to roll around in dollars and eyeballs).
Critics of the proposal argue that shifting the burden of rights liability onto platforms will flip them from champions to chillers of free speech, making them reconfigure their systems to accommodate the new level of business risk.
More specifically they suggest it will encourage platforms into algorithmically pre-filtering all user uploads — aka #censorshipmachines — and then blinkered AIs will end up blocking fair use content, cool satire, funny memes etc etc, and the free Internet as we know it will cease to exist.
Backers of the proposal see it differently, of course. These people tend to be creatives whose professional existence depends upon being paid for the sharable content they create, such as musicians, authors, filmmakers and so on.
Their counter argument is that, as it stands, their hard work is being ripped off because they are not being fairly recompensed for it.
Consumers may be the ones technically freeloading by uploading and consuming others’ works without paying to do so but creative industries point out it’s the tech giants that are gaining the most money from this exploitation of the current rights rules — because they’re the only ones making really fat profits off of other people’s acts of expression. (Alphabet, Google’s ad giant parent, made $31.16BN in revenue in Q1 this year alone, for example.)
YouTube has been a prime target for musicians’ ire — who contend that the royalties the company pays them for streaming their content are simply not fair recompense.
The second controversy attached to the copyright reform concerns the use of snippets of news content.
European lawmakers want to extend digital copyright to also cover the ledes of news stories which aggregators such as Google News typically ingest and display — because, again, the likes of Alphabet is profiting off of bits of others’ professional work without paying them to do so. And, on the flip side, media firms have seen their profits hammered by the Internet serving up free content.
The reforms would seek to compensate publishers for their investment in journalism by letting them charge for use of these text snippets — instead of only being ‘paid’ in traffic (i.e. by becoming yet more eyeball fodder in Alphabet’s aggregators).
Critics don’t see it that way of course. They see it as an imposition on digital sharing — branding the proposal a “link tax” and arguing it will have a wider chilling effect of interfering with the sharing of hyperlinks.
They argue that because links can also contain words of the content being linked to. And much debate has raged over on how the law would (or could) define what is and isn’t a protected text snippet.
They also claim the auxiliary copyright idea hasn’t worked where it’s already been tried (in Germany and Spain). Google just closed its News aggregator in the latter market, for example. Though at the pan-EU level it would have to at least pause before taking a unilateral decision to shutter an entire product.
Germany’s influential media industry is a major force behind Article 11. But in Germany a local version of a snippet law that was passed in 2013 ended up being watered down — so news aggregators were not forced to pay for using snippets, as had originally been floated.
Without mandatory payment (as is the case in Spain) the law has essentially pitted publishers against each other. This is because Google said it would not pay and also changed how it indexes content for Google News in Germany to make it opt-in only.
That means any local publishers that don’t agree to zero-license their snippets to Google risk losing visibility to rivals that do. So major German publishers have continued to hand their snippets over to Google.
But they appear to believe a pan-EU law might manage to tip the balance of power. Hence Article 11.
Awful amounts of screaming
For critics of the reforms, who often sit on the nerdier side of the spectrum, their reaction can be summed up by a screamed refrain that IT’S THE END OF THE FREE WEB AS WE KNOW IT.
A coalition of original Internet architects, computer scientists, academics and others — including the likes of world wide web creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee, security veteran Bruce Schneier, Google chief evangelist Vint Cerf, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and entrepreneur Mitch Kapor — also penned an open letter to the European Parliament’s president to oppose Article 13.
In it they wrote that while “well-intended” the push towards automatic pre-filtering of users uploads “takes an unprecedented step towards the transformation of the Internet from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users”.
There is more than a little irony there, though, given that (for example) Google’s ad business conducts automated surveillance of the users of its various platforms for ad targeting purposes — and through that process it’s hoping to control the buying behavior of the individuals it tracks.
At the same time as so much sound and fury has been directed at attacking the copyright reform plans, another very irate, very motivated group of people have been lustily bellowing that content creators need paying for all the free lunches that tech giants (and others) have been helping themselves to.
But the death of memes! The end of fair digital use! The demise of online satire! The smothering of Internet expression! Hideously crushed and disfigured under the jackboot of the EU’s evil Filternet!
And so on and on it has gone.
(For just one e.g., see the below video — which was actually made by an Australian satirical film and media company that usually spends its time spoofing its own government’s initiatives but evidently saw richly viral pickings here… )
For a counter example, to set against the less than nuanced yet highly sharable satire-as-hyperbole on show in that video, is the Society of Authors — which has written a 12-point breakdown defending the actual substance of the reform (at least as it sees it).
A topline point to make right off the bat is it’s hardly a fair fight to set words against a virally sharable satirical video fronted by a young lady sporting very pink lipstick. But, nonetheless, debunk the denouncers these authors valiantly attempt to.
To wit: They reject claims the reforms will kill hyperlinking or knife sharing in the back; or do for online encyclopedias like Wikimedia; or make snuff out of memes; or strangle free expression — pointing out that explicit exceptions that have been written in to qualify what it would (and would not) target and how it’s intended to operate in practice.
Wikipedia, for example, has been explicitly stated as being excluded from the proposals.
But they are still pushing water uphill — against the tsunami of DEATH OF THE MEMES memes pouring the other way.
Russian state propaganda mouthpiece RT has even joined in the fun, because of course Putin is no fan of EU…
The Society of Authors makes the very pertinent point that tech giants have spent millions lobbying against the reforms. They also argue this campaign has been characterised by “a loop of misinformation and scaremongering”.
So, basically, Google et al stand accused of spreading (even more) fake news with a self-interested flavor. Who’d have thunk it?!
Dollar bills standing on a table in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)
The EU’s (voluntary) Transparency Register records Google directly spending between $6M and $6.4M on regional lobbying activities in 2016 alone. (Although that covers not just copyright related lobbying but a full laundry list of “fields of interest” its team of 14 smooth-talking staffers apply their Little Fingers to.)
But the company also seeks to exert influence on EU political opinion via membership of additional lobbying organizations.
And the register lists a full TWENTY-FOUR organizations that Google is therefore also speaking through (by contrast, Facebook is merely a member of eleven bodies) — from the American chamber of Commerce to the EU to dry-sounding thinktanks, such as the Center for European Policy Studies and the European Policy Center. It is also embedded in startup associations, like Allied for Startups. And various startup angles have been argued by critics of the copyright reforms — claiming Europe is going to saddle local entrepreneurs with extra bureaucracy.
Google’s dense web of presence across tech policy influencers and associations amplifies the company’s regional lobbying spend to as much as $36M, music industry bosses contend.
Though again that dollar value would be spread across multiple GOOG interests — so it’s hard to sum the specific copyright lobbying bill. (We asked Google — it didn’t answer). Multiple millions looks undeniable though.
Of course the music industry and publishers have been lobbying too.
But probably not at such a high dollar value. Though Europe’s creative industries have the local contacts and cultural connections to bend EU politicians’ ears. (As, well, they probably should.)
Seasoned European commissioners have professed themselves astonished at the level of lobbying — and that really is saying something.
Yes there are actually two sides to consider…
Returning to the Society of Authors, here’s the bottom third of their points — which focus on countering the copyright reform critics’ counterarguments:
The proposals aren’t censorship: that’s the very opposite of what most journalists, authors, photographers, film-makers and many other creators devote their lives to.
Not allowing creators to make a living from their work is the real threat to freedom of expression.
Not allowing creators to make a living from their work is the real threat to the free flow of information online.
Not allowing creators to make a living from their work is the real threat to everyone’s digital creativity.
Stopping the directive would be a victory for multinational internet giants at the expense of all those who make, enjoy and enjoy using creative works.
Certainly some food for thought there.
But as entrenched, opposing positions go, it’s hard to find two more perfect examples.
And with such violently opposed and motivated interest groups attached to the copyright reform issue there hasn’t really been much in the way of considered debate or nuanced consideration on show publicly.
But being exposed to endless DEATH OF THE INTERNET memes does tend to have that effect.
What’s that about Article 3 and AI?
There is also debate about Article 3 of the copyright reform plan — which concerns text and data-mining. (Or TDM as the Commission sexily conflates it.)
The original TDM proposal, which was rejected by MEPs, would have limited data mining to research organisations for the purposes of scientific research (though Member States would have been able to choose to allow other groups if they wished).
This portion of the reforms has attracted less attention (butm again, it’s difficult to be heard above screams about dead memes). Though there have been concerns raised from certain quarters that it could impact startup innovation — by throwing up barriers to training and developing AIs by putting rights blocks around (otherwise public) data-sets that could (otherwise) be ingested and used to foster algorithms.
Or that “without an effective data mining policy, startups and innovators in Europe will run dry”, as a recent piece of sponsored content inserted into Politico put it.
That paid for content was written by — you guessed it! — Allied for Startups.
Aka the organization that counts Google as a member…
The most fervent critics of the copyright reform proposals — i.e. those who would prefer to see a pro-Internet-freedoms overhaul of digital copyright rules — support a ‘right to read is the right to mine’ style approach on this front.
So basically a free for all — to turn almost any data into algorithmic insights. (Presumably these folks would agree with this kind of thing.)
Middle ground positions which are among the potential amendments now being considered by MEPs would support some free text and data mining — but, where legal restrictions exist, then there would be licenses allowing for extractions and reproductions.
And now the amendments, all 252 of them…
The whole charged copyright saga has delivered one bit of political drama already — when the European Parliament voted in July to block proposals agreed only by the legal affairs committee, thereby reopening the text for amendments and fresh votes.
So MEPs now have the chance to refine the parliament’s position via supporting select amendments — with that vote taking place next week.
There are 252 in all! Which just goes to show how gloriously messy the democratic process is.
It also suggests the copyright reform could get entirely stuck — if parliamentarians can’t agree on a compromise position which can then be put to the European Council and go on to secure final pan-EU agreement.
So, for example, she argues that amendments to add limited exceptions for platform liability would still constitute “upload filters” (and therefore “censorship machines”).
Her preference would be deleting the article entirely and making no change to the current law. (Albeit that’s not likely to be a majority position, given how many MEPs backed the original Juri text of the copyright reform proposals 278 voted in favor, losing out to 318 against.)
But she concedes that limiting the scope of liability to only music and video hosting platforms would be “a step in the right direction, saving a lot of other platforms (forums, public chats, source code repositories, etc.) from negative consequences”.
She also flags an interesting suggestion — via another tabled amendment — of “outsourcing” the inspection of published content to rightholders via an API”.
“With a fair process in place [it] is an interesting idea, and certainly much better than general liability. However, it would still be challenging for startups to implement,” she adds.
Reda has also tabled a series of additional amendments to try to roll back what she characterizes as “some bad decisions narrowly made by the Legal Affairs Committee” — including adding a copyright exception for user generated content (which would essentially get platforms off the hook insofar as rights infringements by web users are concerned); adding an exception for freedom of panorama (aka the taking and sharing of photos in public places, which is currently not allowed in all EU Member States); and another removing a proposed extra copyright added by the Juri committee to cover sports events — which she contends would “filter fan culture away“.
So is the free Internet about to end??
MEP Catherine Stihler, a member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, who also voted in July to reopen debate over the reforms reckons nearly every parliamentary group is split — ergo the vote is hard to call.
“It is going to be an interesting vote,” she tells TechCrunch. “We will see if any possible compromise at the last minute can be reached but in the end parliament will decide which direction the future of not just copyright but how EU citizens will use the internet and their rights on-line.
“Make no mistake, this vote affects each one of us. I do hope that balance will be struck and EU citizens fundamental rights protected.”
So that sort of sounds like a ‘maybe the Internet as you know it will change’ then.
Other views are available, though, depending on the MEP you ask.
We reached out to Axel Voss, who led the copyright reform process for the Juri committee, and is a big proponent of Article 13, Article 11 (and the rest), to ask if he sees value in the debate having been reopened rather than fast-tracked into EU law — to have a chance for parliamentarians to achieve a more balanced compromise. At the time of writing Voss hadn’t responded.
Voting to reopen the debate in July, Stihler argued there are “real concerns” about the impact of Article 13 on freedom of expression, as well as flagging the degree of consumer concern parliamentarians had been seeing over the issue (doubtless helped by all those memes + petitions), adding: “We owe it to the experts, stakeholders and citizens to give this directive the full debate necessary to achieve broad support.”
MEP Marietje Schaake, a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, was willing to hazard a politician’s prediction that the proposals will be improved via the democratic process — albeit, what would constitute an improvement here of course depends on which side of the argument you stand.
But she’s routing for exceptions for user generated content and additional refinements to the three debated articles to narrow their scope.
Her spokesman told us: “I think we’ll end up with new exceptions on user generated content and freedom of panorama, as well as better wording for article 3 on text and data mining. We’ll end up probably with better versions of articles 11 and 13, the extent of the improvement will depend on the final vote.”
The vote will be held during an afternoon plenary session on September 12.