Saturday, March 23, 2019

Protests in Germany over Article 13; YouTube CEO predicted most YouTubers could be shut down by liability risk

The turmoil over the EU Copyright Directive goes on. Matt Reynolds, of Wired, gives an overview, published recently, March 12, 2019, here

On the previous post, I did link a breaking story about a block in Poland which opposes Article 13 (and probably 11) and which could prevent the directive from passing in the EU Parliament on Wednesday, March 27.  People in the US will know what happened when they get up Wednesday AM because of the time difference.

Reynolds indicates that there probably would not be another vote before the May elections, and that EU member countries would have about two years to implement the directive into their local laws.  It would appear that individual companies (especially the large platforms) would have to set themselves up with each individual country.

That would be like a company’s having to do that in the U.S. with a state with unusual laws, which gives New York and California tremendous power.  In practice, this hasn’t usually been a problem (although there have been questions in how Section 230 is applied in some states, and other concepts, like defamation in fiction, can vary among states).

It’s also obvious that the wording in the law is so vague and open to interpretation, that in some countries somewhat opposed to the law (like Italy), there might be little change in practice.  The countries vary a lot;  Spain was quite strict on the link tax, not allowing publishers to opt out of requiring payment out of protectionism, and not concerned that Google news would pull out. France is said to be one of the worst enemies of amateur speech, but it is so distracted by yellow vest uprisings that it is hard to say what will happen. It’s unclear now whether the UK will be affected or whether it will leave the EU “in time”, which, ironically (compared to 2016), seems like a turnabout for free speech.

The obvious question will be, if the measure passes Wednesday morning US time (and given the Poland issue the outcome is really unpredictable now), what will US companies say to US users about it? 

The US media has hardly discussed it;  will it be shocked on Wednesday?

The Wired article links to several sources on YouTube including posts by YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, like this one on Oct 22, 2018 .   She bluntly states that Article 13 threatens to force platforms like YouTube to limit publishers to a handful of larger, trusted companies.  Does she mean only within Europe, or everywhere?  Would most vloggers in the US get shut down too?  Would my own videos embedded in my blogs go blank?  She then says that European users would lose access to most user generated content, so I guess she really meant her first sentence to mean, “within Europe”.  She should write carefully.

I can think of solutions.  You could imagine intermediary companies, which might set up paywall bundles and actually manage the link taxes.  But they could also screen potential publishers before they are allowed to post.  You could require a user to pass a quiz on copyright.  (Youtube already has a “copyright school”.)  You could screen for social acceptability – but then you’re having the new Internet publishing gatekeeper as able to give people “social credit scores” like China.  Imagine how free speech could be corrupted, by requiring evidence of volunteer service or the ability to raise money for nonprofits.  Yes, this could happen.  Some people would think this was OK.  It would have to be thought out very carefully, and it would create a new fight.  The very idea that I can suggest it with a straight face makes me Milo-dangerous. 
 Note that protests are starting in Europe, today in Cologne, Germany. They will spread.  How will this mix with the Yellow Jacket riots in Paris?  What about other Brexit-like separation movements from the Right?  Most of the support for Article 13 seems to come from the corporatized mainstream moderate Left (Macron).  

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