Europe’s Article 11 and Article 13 Delayed Until Next Year

Europe’s controversial article 11 (link tax) and article 13 (censorship machines) have now been delayed for the rest of the year.

It’s faced opposition from all sides, and now, news is surfacing that Europe’s nearly universally despised Article 11 and Article 13 is being delayed for the rest of the year.

Already, the laws have been rejected by innovators and content creators for cracking down on free speech. Digital rights advocates and websites are also universally opposed to the legislation due to it’s profound negative impacts on digital rights as well as the viability of websites. The European public has also rejected the laws and went through the trouble of putting together a petition that has garnered more than 4 million signatures.

On the other side, the film industry recently came out against Article 13 saying that it doesn’t crack down on technology enough. A former top executive from Universal Music also came out against the proposal, saying that the laws would set the music industry back.

At this point, many are saying that these copyright laws have become laws that no one wants. So, it may come as no surprise that the laws have now been delayed for the rest of the year. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) offered some thoughts on the development:

Today, EU negotiators in Strasbourg struggled to craft the final language of the Copyright in the Single Digital Market Directive, in their last possible meeting for 2019. They failed, thanks in large part to the Directive’s two most controversial clauses: Article 11, which requires paid licenses for linking to news stories while including more than a word or two; and Article 13, which will lead to the creation of error-prone copyright censorship algorithms that will block users from posting anything that has been identified as a copyrighted work — even if that posting is lawful. This means that the Directive will not be completed, as was expected, under Austria’s presidency of the European Union. The negotiations between the European Parliament, representatives of the member states, and the European Commission (called “trilogues”) will continue under the Romanian presidency, in late January.

What is worse, the Directive will only reinforce the power of US Big Tech companies by inhibiting the emergence of European competitors. That’s because only the biggest tech companies have the millions of euros it will cost to deploy the filters Article 13 requires. Proponents of Article 13 stress that the dominance of platforms like Google and Facebook leaves them with insufficient bargaining leverage and say this leads to a systematic undervaluing of their products. But Article 13 will actually reduce that leverage even further by preventing the emergence of alternative platforms.

Compromises suggested by the negotiators to limit the damage are proving unlikely to help. Prior to the Trilogue, Article 13 was imposed on all online platforms save those businesses with less than 10 million euros in annual turnover. Some parties, realising that this will limit the EU tech sector, have suggested changing the figure, but doubling that figure to 20 million doesn’t help. If you own a European tech company that you hope will compete with Google someday, you will have to do something Google never had to face: the day you make the leap from 20 million euros in annual turnover to 20,000,001 euros, you will have to find hundreds of millions of euros to implement an Article 13 copyright filter.

Still, the lobbying will continue over the holiday break. Some of the world’s biggest entertainment and Internet companies will be throwing their weight around the EU to find a “compromise” that will keep no-one happy, and will exclude the needs and rights of individual Internet users, and European innovators.

Perhaps a silver lining in all of this is that any delay from a digital rights perspective is going to be good. It means a few more days or weeks of enjoying what’s left of a free and open Internet. If a massive crackdown on the Internet is going to be a matter of if, but when, any delay is considered good news.

Of course, the fight to save the Internet is not over yet. There is still the possibility that the directive will not make it past the finish line. It will take a lot of public backlash to accomplish this, but it is not impossible to put a stop to all of this still.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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