Wednesday, April 17, 2019

EU countries ratify directive (19 out of 28 nations); France may implement it this summer; effects uncertain

19 of 28 member European Union member countries approved the “Copyright Directive” yesterday;  there were six no’s (that included Poland and Finland) and three abstentions.  The UK voted for it, despite the fact it might leave with Brexit by March 2020.

While the countries would have until the spring of 2021 to implement the policies, France says it wants a policy in place sometime this summer. 
There are many news stories, but one of the more explicit is “9to5Google”.  This links to a story (from November) that suggests Google News would be shut down in affected countries, and possibly so would YouTube.   Another possibility would be that only pre-approved channels would be allowed to continue to operate, or at least have their content visible in affected countries. Google's own blog entry is constructively critical. 
Techdirt has some details by country and predicts litigation may hold up the process.
Recode discusses the effects on large companies like Facebook and Google.  Large platforms will have to pay European publishers license fees to expand their content when users link to them, but this is not likely by itself to present a major problem. But remember Google News had pulled out of Spain before when it had a compulsory link fee (with no publisher opt-out). 
It's unclear how free blogging services like Tumblr, Blogger (this one) and Wordpress will react. It would seem logical for them to disable country specific extensions (like for France) since content can't be properly screened first, but they haven't said that.
Hosting companies like Godaddy also have been silent so far on how they would react, but the EU laws would seem to apply to them (even though they don't curate content). They could split themselves into country-specific pieces and not allow their customers' sites to be displayed in the affected countries. There is no other way to avoid the downstream liability risk. 

 Taken literally, the EU directive also applies to text as well as images and video. No one has thought to mention that on a hosted Wordrpess site, you can easily upload an image or reasonably sized video into a wp/includes directory, or you can just copy it with ftp.  So even for video this isn't limited to YouTube, Vimeo, etc.  Pewdiepie's entry into blockchain for video makes this even murkier. 

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