As the EU
advances the new Copyright Directive towards becoming law in its 28 member-states, it's important to realise that the EU's plan will end up censoring the Internet for everyone , not just Europeans.
A quick refresher: Under Article 13 of the new Copyright Directive, anyone who operates a (sufficiently large) platform where people can post works that might be copyrighted (like text, pictures, videos, code, games, audio etc) will have to
crowdsource a database of "copyrighted works" that users aren't allowed to post, and block anything that seems to match one of the database entries.
These blacklist databases will be open to all comers (after all, anyone can create a copyrighted work): that means that billions of people around the world will be able to submit anything to the blacklists, without having to prove that
they hold the copyright to their submissions (or, for that matter, that their submissions are copyrighted). The Directive does not specify any punishment for making false claims to a copyright, and a platform that decided to block someone for
making repeated fake claims would run the risk of being liable to the abuser if a user posts a work to which the abuser does own the rights .
The major targets of this censorship plan are the social media platforms, and it's the "social" that should give us all pause.
That's because the currency of social media is social interaction between users . I post something, you reply, a third person chimes in, I reply again, and so on.
Now, let's take a hypothetical Twitter discussion between three users: Alice (an American), Bob (a Bulgarian) and Carol (a Canadian).
Alice posts a picture of a political march: thousands of protesters and counterprotesters, waving signs. As is
world , these signs include copyrighted images, whose use is permitted under US "fair use" rules that permit parody. Because Twitter enables users to communicate significant amounts of user-generated content, they'll fall within
the ambit of Article 13.
Bob lives in Bulgaria, an EU member-state whose copyright law
does not permit parody . He might want to reply to Alice with a quote from the Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov , whose works were translated into English in the late 1970s and are still in copyright.
Carol, a Canadian who met Bob and Alice through their shared love of Doctor Who, decides to post a witty meme from " The Mark of the Rani ," a 1985 episode in which Colin Baker travels back to witness the Luddite protests of the 19th
Alice, Bob and Carol are all expressing themselves through use of copyrighted cultural works, in ways that might not be lawful in the EU's most speech-restrictive copyright jurisdictions. But because (under today's system) the platform typically
is only required to to respond to copyright complaints when a rightsholder objects to the use, everyone can see everyone else's posts and carry on a discussion using tools and modes that have become the norm in all our modern, digital discourse.
But once Article 13 is in effect, Twitter faces an impossible conundrum. The Article 13 filter will be tripped by Alice's lulzy protest signs, by Bob's political quotes, and by Carol's Doctor Who meme, but suppose that Twitter is only required to
block Bob from seeing these infringing materials.
Should Twitter hide Alice and Carol's messages from Bob? If Bob's quote is censored in Bulgaria, should Twitter go ahead and show it to Alice and Carol (but hide it from Bob, who posted it?). What about when Bob travels outside of the EU and
looks back on his timeline? Or when Alice goes to visit Bob in Bulgaria for a Doctor Who convention and tries to call up the thread? Bear in mind that there's no way to be certain where a user is visiting from, either.
The dangerous but simple option is to subject all Twitter messages to European copyright censorship, a disaster for online speech.
And it's not just Twitter, of course: any platform with EU users will have to solve this problem. Google, Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, Tiktok, Snapchat, Flickr, Tumblr -- every network will have to contend with this.
With Article 13, the EU would create a system where copyright complainants get a huge stick to beat the internet with, where people who abuse this power face no penalties, and where platforms that err on the side of free speech will get that
stick right in the face.
As the EU's censorship plan
works its way through the next steps on the way to becoming binding across the EU, the whole world has a stake -- but only a handful of appointed negotiators get a say.
If you are a European, the rest of the world would be very grateful indeed if you would take a moment to
contact your MEP and urge them to protect us all in the new Copyright Directive.
New rules on audiovisual media services will apply to broadcasters, and also to video-on-demand and video-sharing platforms
MEPs voted on updated rules on audiovisual media services covering children protection, stricter rules on advertising, and a requirement 30% European content in video-on-demand.
Following the final vote on this agreement, the revised legislation will apply to broadcasters, but also to video-on-demand and video-sharing platforms, such as Netflix, YouTube or Facebook, as well as to live streaming on video-sharing
The updated rules will ensure:
Enhanced protection of minors from violence, hatred, terrorism and harmful advertising
Audiovisual media services providers should have appropriate measures to combat content inciting violence, hatred and terrorism, while gratuitous violence and pornography will be subject to the strictest rules. Video-sharing platforms will now be
responsible for reacting quickly when content is reported or flagged by users as harmful.
The legislation does not include any automatic filtering of uploaded content, but, at the request of the Parliament, platforms need to create a transparent, easy-to-use and effective mechanism to allow users to report or flag content.
The new law includes strict rules on advertising, product placement in children's TV programmes and content available on video-on-demand platforms. EP negotiators also secured a personal data protection mechanism for children, imposing measures
to ensure that data collected by audiovisual media providers are not processed for commercial use, including for profiling and behaviourally targeted advertising.
Redefined limits of advertising
Under the new rules, advertising can take up a maximum of 20% of the daily broadcasting period between 6.00 and 18.00, giving the broadcaster the flexibility to adjust their advertising periods. A prime-time window between 18:00 and 0:00 was also
set out, during which advertising will only be allowed to take up a maximum of 20% of broadcasting time.
30% of European content on the video-on-demand platforms' catalogues
In order to support the cultural diversity of the European audiovisual sector, MEPs ensured that 30% of content in the video-on-demand platforms' catalogues should be European.
Video-on-demand platforms are also asked to contribute to the development of European audiovisual productions, either by investing directly in content or by contributing to national funds. The level of contribution in each country should be
proportional to their on-demand revenues in that country (member states where they are established or member states where they target the audience wholly or mostly).
The legislation also includes provisions regarding accessibility, integrity of a broadcaster's signal, strengthening regulatory authorities and promoting media competences.
The deal still needs to be formally approved by the Council of EU ministers before the revised law can enter into force. Member States have 21 months after its entry into force to transpose the new rules into national legislation.
The text was adopted by 452 votes against 132, with 65 abstentions.
A new section has been added to the AVMS rules re censorship
Member States shall take appropriate measures to ensure that audiovisual media services provided by media service providers under their jurisdiction which may impair the physical, mental or moral development of minors are only made available
in such a way as to ensure that minors will not normally hear or see them. Such measures may include selecting the time of the broadcast, age verification tools or other technical measures. They shall be proportionate to the potential harm of
the programme. The most harmful content, such as gratuitous violence and pornography, shall be subject to the strictest measures.
Personal data of minors collected or otherwise generated by media service providers pursuant to paragraph 1 shall not be processed for commercial purposes, such as direct marketing, profiling and behaviourally targeted advertising.
Member States shall ensure that media service providers provide sufficient information to viewers about content which may impair the physical, mental or moral development of minors. For this purpose, media service providers shall use a system
describing the potentially harmful nature of the content of an audiovisual media service. For the implementation of this paragraph, Member States shall encourage the use of co - regulation as provided for in Article 4a(1).
The Commission shall encourage media service providers to exchange best practices on co - regulatory codes of conduct . Member States and the Commission may foster self - regulation, for the purposes of this Article, through Union codes of
conduct as referred to in Article 4a(2).
Article 4a suggests possible organisation of the censors assigned to the task, eg state censors, state controlled organisations eg Ofcom, or nominally state controlled co-regulators like the defunct ATVOD.
Article 4a(3). notes that censorial countries like the UK are free to add further censorship rules of their own:
Member States shall remain free to require media service providers under their jurisdiction to comply with more detailed or stricter rules in compliance with this Directive and Union law, including where their national independent regulatory
authorities or bodies conclude that any code of conduct or parts thereof h ave proven not to be sufficiently effective. Member States shall report such rules to the Commission without undue delay. ;
Vera Jourova is the European Commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality. Once she opened a Facebook account. It did not go well. Jourova said at a news conference:
For a short time, I had a Facebook account. It was a channel of dirt. I didn't expect such an influx of hatred. I decided to cancel the account because I realised there will be less hatred in Europe after I do this.
Jourova's words carry more weight than most. She has a policy beef with Facebook, and also the means to enforce it. Jourova says Facebook's terms of service are misleading, and has called upon the company to clarify them. In a post Thursday on
that other channel of dirt, Twitter.com, she said:
I want #Facebook to be extremely clear to its users about how their service operates and makes money. Not many people know that Facebook has made available their data to third parties or that for instance it holds full copyright about any
picture or content you put on it.
Jourova says European authorities could sanction Facebook next year if it doesn't like what it hears from the company soon. I was quite clear that we cannot negotiate forever, she said at the news conference. We need to see the result.
Vera Jourova is the European Commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality has condemned a series of hard-hitting front pages in the British press after a recent Sun headline described Europe's leaders as 'EU Dirty Rats'.
JourovŠ bad mouthed media again in a press release saying:
Media can build the culture of dialogue or sow divisions, spread disinformation and encourage exclusion.
The Brexit debate is the best example of that. Do you remember the front page of a popular British daily calling the judges the 'enemy of the people'? Or just last week, the EU leaders were called 'Dirty Rats' on another front page.
Fundamental rights must be a part of public discourse in the media. They have to belong to the media. Media are also instrumental in holding politicians to account and in defining the limits of what is 'unacceptable' in a society.
Offsite Comment: Now the EU wants to turn off the Sun
They dream of stopping populism by curbing press freedom.
The European Commission has come up with a new way to prevent people backing Brexit -- not by winning the argument, but by curbing press freedom . They want to stop the British press encouraging hatred of EU leaders and judges, and impose a
European approach of smart regulation to control the views expressed by the tabloids and their supposedly non-smart readers.
China has complained to Sweden over a satirical news show on Swedish state television that advised Chinese tourists how to avoid culture clashes. China complained that the show insulted the Chinese people.
The satirical programme Svenska Nyheter (Swedish News), was aired a week after police removed three Chinese citizens from a Stockholm hotel. Local media reported they had refused to leave the hotel despite the fact they were not booked to
Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement:
The [Svenska Nyheter] anchor's remarks are full of discrimination, prejudice and provocation against China and other ethnic groups, completely deviating from professional media ethics. We strongly condemn this.
Fifteen EU-based regulators plus Washington State have made a joint declaration while Australian based study likens loot boxes to gambling, not baseball cards
Fifteen EU gambling regulators from the UK, Ireland, France, Austria, Poland, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Spain, the Isle of Man, Malta, Portugal, Jersey, Norway, and the Netherlands plus US representation from the Washington State Gambling
Regulator published the letter, noting their concerns with the business model.
In addition to the loot box problem, the letter addresses how it will take on websites that let players either gamble or sell in-game items like skins or weapons with real-world money.
One of the signatories, Neil McArthur, CEO of the UK Gambling Commission said:
We have joined forces to call on video games companies to address the clear public concern around the risks gambling and some video games can pose to children. We encourage video games companies to work with their gambling regulators and take
action now to address those concerns to make sure that consumers, and particularly children, are protected.
The letter speaks of the groups concerns but does not detail the direction sthat the group will take in reacting to the concerns.
According to VentureBeat, a study conducted by the Australian Parliament's Environment and Communications References Committee showed that there were links between loot box spending and problematic gambling. The population sample size was 7500
The more severe a gamers' problem gambling was, the more likely they were to spend large amounts of money on loot boxes. These results strongly support claims that loot boxes are psychologically akin to gambling, said the report, conducted by Dr.
David Zendle and Dr. Paul Cairns.
In a statement, the pair added loot boxes could potentially act as an introduction to gambling or take advantage of gambling disorders. They note that the industry tends to brush off loot boxes as similar to harmless products like baseball cards,
football/soccer stickers, and products along those lines.
In related news games maker EA could face legal issues for ignoring a ruling by the Belgian government to remove the Ultimate Team portion from FIFA 18.
The National Secular Society has said Ireland's impending referendum on its blasphemy law should prompt global action in defence of free speech on religion.
On Tuesday evening the Dail, the lower house of the Oireachtas (Ireland's parliament), ratified a proposal to hold a referendum on the issue on Friday 26 October. The decision passed through the house unopposed.
The upper house, the Seanad, is expected to pass the legislation on Thursday.
Currently Ireland's constitution says:
The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law. The referendum will propose removing the word blasphemous from that article.
The minister for justice Charlie Flanagan said while the offence remained in the constitution, Ireland would be seen as keeping company with those who do not share the fundamental values we cherish such as belief in freedom of conscience and
NSS chief executive Stephen Evans urged Ireland to take a stand for free speech when the referendum takes place:
Repealing the reference to blasphemy from Ireland's constitution would be a welcome declaration of Ireland's changing attitude to religious privilege and a statement of support with free thinkers globally.
Ireland's referendum should prompt global action in defence of free speech on religion. It should send a message to the rest of the world: offending religious sensibilities is not a crime, and the world will not tolerate those who persecute
people for their thoughts and words.