Archive | August, 2016

Prepare for the next EU copyright war

The EU is to update the unions copyright laws. The first step was a public consultation, with a lot of input from so-called stakeholders, civil society, and ordinary citizens. The next step is to make an “impact assessment”.

Thanks to State Watch, this impact assessment has now been leaked. [Link, PDF»] As far as this document goes, we can expect a rather problematic proposal for a law (a directive or possibly a regulation) late September.

For example, the EU Commission seems to be rather keen on the idea of a “link tax” – also known as the “Google tax“.

The idea comes from Spain and Germany where the big media houses managed to lobby trough a fee for links with short snippets from the news material in question. The (rather ill-conceived) idea is that Google News and others linking to articles and other copyright protected material should share their potential revenues with the media they link to.

In Spain, it lead to Google News abandoning the entire Spanish market – resulting in the media having fewer clicks on their articles. And in Germany, many media organisations learned from the Spanish fiasco and have opted out from being a part of this scheme – in order to have a lot of incoming link traffic.

It ought to be obvious to everybody: If you are on the Internet you would like to have as many clicks as possible. Thwarting linking to your own material is just stupid.

As links are the Internets nerve system a link tax will also be a threat to the entire open dynamics of the Internet.

But the EU Commission seems decided to move on with this terrible idea.

There has also been a discussion about “fair use”, i.e. the right to use copyright protected material in the public and political debate, in satire, for memes, for sampling etc. There are no indications in this impact assessment that the EU intends to loosen up the copyright regime in this regard.

Only small steps will be taken to relax geoblocking (where you cannot see national television broadcasts on the net in other countries or Netflix if you go on holiday abroad). In essence, there will be no common European digital market.

There might also be new and possibly stricter enforcement of copyright on platforms for user-generated material, like Youtube and Soundcloud. As a consequence, this might make it more difficult for others to compete with existing platforms, as automated systems for copyright enforcement are complicated and very expensive to implement.

This impact assessment implies that there will be no substantial copyright reform to move the EU into the 21:st century.

Now it’s up to civil society, Internet freedom activists, advocates for free speech and others to voice their concerns to the EU Commission. (The copyright industry’s and Big Entertainment industry’s lobbyist are already all over the place.)

It is easier to change things now – before they are laid down in a formal proposal for European law.

The next step is for the Commission to table a proposal for a directive (probably in late September). Then it needs to be approved by the Council (member states) and the European Parliament (the people’s elected representatives).


• The EU Commissions leaked impact assessment (PDF) »
• Ars Technica: Google snippet tax, geoblocking, other copyright reform shunned in EU plan »
• EFF: European Copyright Leak Exposes Plans to Force the Internet to Subsidize Publishers »
• The Mozilla Blog: EU Copyright Law Undermines Innovation and Creativity on the Internet. Mozilla is Fighting for Reform »
• Ars Technica: “Google tax” on snippets under serious consideration by European Commission »

Update: TechDirt – Leaked EU Copyright Proposal A Complete Mess: Want To Tax Google To Prop Up Failing Publishers »


Commissioner Oettinger stalling EU copyright reform

The EU is finally preparing its new copyright law.

It’s a historic chance to update outdated laws to the new realities and opportunities of the digital revolution. But a leaked draft reveals nothing of the sort.

Instead, Commissioner Oettinger has let the publishing, film and music industries hijack the reform in an attempt to protect old business models from progress – at a tragic cost to freedom of creativity and expression on the internet, startups’ right to innovate and the cause of a Europe without digital borders.

German Pirate MEP Julia Reda: Commissioner Oettinger is about to turn EU copyright reform into another ACTA »


Facebook turning WhatsApp to the Dark Side of the Force?

Under the new user agreement, WhatsApp will share the phone numbers of people using the service with Facebook, along with analytics such as what devices and operating systems are being used. Previously, no information passed between the two, a stance more in line with WhatsApp’s original sales pitch as a privacy oasis.

Wired: WhatsApp’s Privacy Cred Just Took a Big Hit »

“Only at the end do you realize the power of the Dark Side.”


The gatekeepers are dead. Long live the World Wide Web!

Information is power, control, and supremacy.

Until recently the tools for mass communication were expensive and in the hands of a small number of gatekeepers. Then, the price rapidly fell towards zero. With the Internet and the World Wide Web (that just turned 25 years old) anyone can communicate with the world by words, pictures, sound, and video – 24/365 – on a shoestring budget.

Still, people need to know about you. So fame, reputation, and status are factors to take into consideration. But content, quality (in some sense) and virality is the new gold standard.

This has upset the people who used to be in power, like bigwig politicians. They used to have their press releases copy-pasted into the media news flow without too much hassle. Today they still are visible in the slowly dying mainstream media. But on the Internet, they have to compete for attention with everybody and everything else.

Also, media proprietors, the copyright industry and the big brick and mortar chains are upset – just to mention a few.

It could have been very different.

Tim Berners-Lee – who invented the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) together with his friends at W3C at Cern – decided not to patent this method of connecting the dots in the Matrix, but to give it to the world.

Alternatively, the Internet could have been in the hands of a few: Microsoft, Times Warner, Disney, Universal and some television conglomerates. It could have been compartmentalized with different protocols, specialized gadgets and used mainly to send information rather than allowing interaction.

Probably, there would also have been some sort of popular alternative run by enthusiasts – but it would have nothing like the impact of the WWW, where everybody interacts on the same platform.

Still, there are those who try to turn back time and change the outcome. This is the underlying context of the copyright war, the rationale behind political initiatives like ACTA, and an issue where Big Government and Big Business have coinciding interests.

At the same time, the Internet changes other markets like transportation and the hotel business. There is an emerging sharing economy. The Internet of things will change our lives in unforeseen ways.

The other side of the coin is that this technology might invade our privacy and be used for mass surveillance and political control.

This is a mix of spontaneous development (that politicians should keep away from) and some very political questions about privacy, data protection and the relation between citizens and the government.

A free and open Internet will provide endless possibilities and progress. And it will need Internet activism to stay free and open for all. That is, for instance, what this blog is all about.