What is it about the European Union and bad tech laws with boring names? Brussels managed to transform four harmless letters into a byword for irritating compliance-induced spam and pop ups as well as a consolidation of power for the internet’s biggest players. Now that the GDPR dust has settled, along comes Article 13 of the Directive for Copyright in the Digital Single Market, which was approved by the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs yesterday.
Article 13 requires websites to take “appropriate and proportionate” measures to make sure copyrighted material doesn’t appear on their pages. It would also require sites to “provide rightsholders with adequate information on the functioning and the deployment of measures”. Then there is the jargon-laden instruction for Member States to “facilitate… cooperating between the information society service providers and rightsholders through stakeholder dialogues to define best practices”.
Those appropriate and proportionate measures mean “content recognition technologies” along the lines of Content ID, the copyright filter that Google uses to stop YouTube users from uploading copyrighted videos. As open internet campaigner and writer Cory Doctorow has explained, everyone hates the filter: “Big rightsholders say that it still lets crucial materials slip through the cracks. Indie rightsholders say that it lets big corporations falsely claim copyright over their works and take them down. Google hates Content ID because they spent $60,000,000 developing a system that makes everyone miserable, and YouTubers and their viewers hate it because it overblocks so much legit content.”
The EU seems to have looked at this way of doing things and decided it should be extended – by law – not just to all online videos, but to everything on the internet.