EU rules could ‘destroy the Internet as we know it’

The European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs has voted for controversial Internet rules that could fundamentally change how the Internet is able to work, in Europe at least (I don’t know if the rules could apply elsewhere in the world).

They have been dubbed a ‘link tax’, and ‘censorship machines’. Both would make operating a site like this not worth the effort or cost.

The rules still require approval by the European Parliament, but they are causing major concern, for good reason.

Independent: EU COMMITTEE APPROVES NEW RULES THAT COULD ‘DESTROY THE INTERNET AS WE KNOW IT’

An EU committee has approved two new copyright rules that campaigners warn could destroy the internet as we know it.

The two controversial new rules – known as Article 11 and Article 13 – introduce wide-ranging new changes to the way the web works.

Article 11 would have the effect of severely limiting linking to and part quoting news sites, something that a lot of the dissemination of information relies on and is a key to online discussion.

Article 11 introduces a “link tax”, requiring that internet companies get permission from publishers to use a snippet of their work. On websites like Google and Twitter, for instance, a small part of the article is usually shown before someone clicks into it entirely – but, under the new rule, those technology companies would have get permission and perhaps even pay to use that excerpt.

Facebook would similarly be affected.

It would also probably make it impossible in practical terms for blogs like most political discussion blogs to operate as they now do.

Article 13 would add to administrative difficulties for large operators like Google, Twitter and Facebook, and would make running smaller sites like this not worth the cost and effort.

Article 13 has been criticised by campaigners who claim that it could force internet companies to “ban memes”. It requires that all websites check posts against a database of copyrighted work, and remove those that are flagged.

That could mean memes – which often use images taken from films or TV shows – could be removed by websites. The system is also likely to go wrong, campaigners say, pointing to previous examples where automated systems at YouTube have taken down a variety of entirely innocent posts.

Smaller sites might not even be able to maintain such a complicated infrastructure for scanning through posts, and therefore might not be able to continue to function, activists claim.

TNW also describes the rules in EU votes for memes ban and censorship machines — what now?

Article 11 (a.k.a. link tax) would force anyone using snippets of journalistic online content to get a license from the publisher first — essentially outlawing current business models of most aggregators and news apps. This can also possibly threaten the hyperlink and give power to publishers at the cost of public good.

Article 13 (a.k.a. censorship machines) will make platforms responsible for monitoring user behavior to stop copyright infringements, but basically means only huge platforms will have the resources to let users comment or share content. People opposed to the proposal worry that this could lead to broader censorship, threatening free speech via parody, satire, and even protest videos.

The rules still have to pass through the European Parliament.

The committee’s vote doesn’t automatically make the Copyright reform and its controversial articles law. Instead, it cements the European Parliament’s stance on the issue — which is highly influential — before entering the final stage of the legislation process.

However, there is a way to change that. Plenary is the European Parliament’s tool to bring matters out of committee and put up for a vote in the Parliament itself, i.e. have all 751 MEPs vote instead of only 25. But there needs to be enough support in Parliament for this to happen, so opposers have already started campaigning for a plenary session.

If passed I think that this would have an adverse effect on many news websites, who rely on quotes and linking to promote and circulate their news.

Many news sites deliberately use Twitter and Facebook to attract readers and viewers to their own sites.

And I doubt they will appreciate the administration overhead of responding to all requests to link, unless they simply ignore them all.

The rules could also have a chilling effect on online discussion. In New Zealand some news sites allow discussion on their own sites, but most don’t, they rely on Facebook and Twitter to facilitate discussion.

EU rules would probably have a limited effect here in New Zealand, if any. I don’t know if the EU could impose or police their rules outside their own region. And if they could it would only apply to European news sources – it would create a censorship wall between the EU and the rest of the world.

So if passed by the European Parliament the proposed rules may only destroy the Internet as they know it in Europe – unless it had wider jurisdiction.

What if a trade agreement between New Zealand and the EU was dependent on abiding by their Internet rules?

If the proposed rules applied here now I would not have been able to post about it like this.

Thanks to ‘soundhill’ who brought this to my attention at Kiwiblog.