While the vote is a major blow to Internet freedom, Cory Doctorow is saying that the war is far from over.
Yesterday, European lawmakers struck a major body blow to the Internet in Europe. They did that by passing a nearly universally rejected set of copyright proposals that ultimately appeased major corporate interests at the expense of everyone else.
One of the laws that were passed is the upload filter. These laws demand various platforms to install filters for user uploads that simply do not exist. The filters are supposed to scan content for copyrighted material and prevent that file from being posted. Unfortunately, this law ignores various exceptions to copyright such as critical review, education, and satire. It’s these laws that many say would ban memes from existing. Unfortunately, it does a whole lot more damage because it stops new platforms from emerging in the first place because the barrier to entry is going to be far too extreme unless backed by a lot of money.
The other set of copyright laws are known as the link tax. This tax would demand aggregators and other sites that link to content to pay a licensing fee. Such a requirement, of course, runs up against the very nature of the Internet where linking is such an integral part of the core infrastructure. Links are often used as reference points that show that the content is well-researched and trustworthy. License fees would greatly increase the cost of doing business to the point where it could be impossible on all practical accounts for small start-ups to survive.
Cory Doctorow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is pointing these basic facts out as well. He says that Europe has effectively lost the Internet with the passage of these laws. While his commentary paints a very dire picture of the situation, he also points out that the war is not over and that the Internet can still be saved:
Practically speaking, there are several more junctures where Europeans can influence their elected leaders on this issue.
* Immediately: the Directive will now go into “trilogues” — secretive, closed-door meetings between representatives from national governments and the European Union; these will be hard to influence, but they will determine the final language put before the Parliament for the next vote (Difficulty: 10/10)
* Next spring: The European Parliament will vote on the language that comes out of the trilogues. It’s unlikely that they’ll be able to revise the text any further, so this will probably come to a vote on whether to pass the Directive itself. It’s very difficult to defeat the Directive at this stage. = (Difficulty: 8/10)
* After that: 28 member states will have to debate and enact their own versions of the legislation. In many ways, it’s going to be harder to influence 28 individual parliaments than it was to fix this at the EU level, but on the other hand, the parliamentarians in member states will be more responsive to individual Internet users, and victories in one country can be leveraged for others (“See, they got it right in Luxembourg, let’s do the same”) (Difficulty: 7/10)
* Somewhere around there: Court challenges. Given the far-reaching nature of these proposals, the vested interests involved, and the unresolved questions about how to balance all the rights implicated, we can expect this to rise — eventually — to the European Court of Justice. Unfortunately, court challenges are slow and expensive. (Difficulty: 7/10)
In the meantime, there are upcoming EU elections, in which EU politicians will have to fight for their jobs. There aren’t many places where a prospective Member of the European Parliament can win an election by boasting about expansions of copyright, but there are lots of potential electoral opponents who will be too happy to campaign on “Vote for me, my opponent just broke the Internet.”
These points are, of course, something we mentioned in passing in our previous article, but it seems that others are jumping on board and seeing what the future of the debate may look like. As we get closer to the next step in the progression of these laws, each day becomes more and more important for European’s who have an interest in saving the Internet. So, it is little wonder why Internet advocates are starting early in all of this. The clock is ticking and the laws are edging ever so closer to reality now.