The EU’s new law forcing websites to pay a tax in order to link to other websites won’t just affect the trading bloc’s member states — it will drastically affect alternative media outlets in the United States, leaving large companies such as Google, Yahoo and mainstream media outlets as the only sources of national and international news. The draft proposals, which were first proposed back in July 2018 but then set aside, are back on the table and could be voted on this month.
The problematic laws are known as Articles 11 and 13 of the EU’s Copyright Directive. Article 11 stipulates that platforms that use aggregate or curated content would need to pay a “link tax” to the original sources of the material used. It is the one that worries alternative news websites the most, and it’s not hard to see why.
Alternative news websites, along with individual bloggers and authors, frequently link to news articles that support their assertions. Others curate news content from a variety of sites so that people who want to find news on a particular topic can do so with ease. Article 11 would dramatically raise the price of running any sort of informative website because the webmasters would need to pay out tens of thousands of dollars in link taxes on a regular basis. The exorbitant fees would ensure that most, if not all, of these websites would need to shut down, leaving only tech giants to provide news and information to the general public.
Article 13 proposes the creation of an “upload filter” that would require that any content uploaded online be checked to ensure that it does not infringe on anyone’s copyright. Anyone can add something to the copyright algorithm’s database, making it easy for just about any person in the EU or even outside the EU to claim that something they don’t want to see posted online is in fact copyrighted when this may not actually be the case.
What is more, the law does not allow for “Fair Use” guidelines that are in place in the United States and other countries. Memes, derivative works and even satire would cease to exist online as the EU’s filters would deem the material to be copyrighted and refuse to allow people to upload or share their creations. You could be banned from uploading a picture of a used book, video or even T-shirt that you want to sell simply because you don’t own the copyrights on these items. Protestors may not be able to upload photos of their events if they wear trademarked clothing.
Another big problem with Article 13 is that copyright filters that are already in place consistently makes mistakes by flagging legitimate material as being copyrighted. If this were to happen in the EU, the burden of proving that something can be legitimately uploaded online would by on the person who wants to upload the content in question. If the platform doesn’t agree with the person, he or she would have to take the case to court in order to upload content. Needless to say, this is a huge infringement on freedom of speech as individuals will no longer be able to share comments, files or content without Big Brother approving it first.
This recent move by the EU to restrict the type of content that is uploaded online and to demand that websites pay to link to content poses a danger to anyone who embraces free speech and wants to share his or her opinions and/or content online. Articles 11 and 13 of the Copyright Directive will ruin the internet for everyone if they are allowed to go on unchallenged. In fact, the latter proposal is eerily similar to rules that are in place in Communist China, a country that is well known for its desire to control what people in the country can post on its online platforms.
Those who want to keep the internet free from government interference and censorship would do well to speak out against these proposed rules and encourage others to do so as well. As individuals and organizations such as EFF and Wikipedia work together to keep the internet free and open, hopefully rules like these will wind up permanently shelved.
~ Conservative Zone