EU vs the internet
May 4, 2016 Leave a comment
A European Commission (EC) document called Online platforms and the digital single market has been leaked. It has content that has been described as a link tax, but the article doesn’t provide page references or long quotes for most of its claims. I think the policy described as a link tax is a bad idea, but I wouldn’t describe it as a tax. It’s more like just breaking contracts when the EC happens to feel like it.
On page 9 of the document the problem the EC wants to address is described as follows:
New forms of online content distribution have emerged which may involve several actors, and where, for instance, content is distributed through platforms which make available copyright protected content uploaded by end-users. While these services attract a growing audience and gain economic benefits from the content distribution, there is a growing concern as to whether the value generated by some of these forms of online content distribution is shared in a fair manner between distributors and right holders. In reply to the public consultation, right holders across several content sectors reported that their content is increasingly used without authorisation or through licencing agreements, which, in their view, contain unfair terms.
The emphasis and wrong spelling of “licensing” are in the original.
On p.10, the EC describes what it intends to do about this problem:
in the next copyright package, to be adopted in autumn 2016, the Commission will aim at ensuring fair allocation of the value generated from the online distribution of copyright-protected content by online platforms whose businesses are based on the provision of access to copyright-protected material.
The emphasis in the quote is the same as in the original.
The first problem with this “solution” is that the EC openly states that some of the content is shared under license agreements. This means that the EC will be in the position of breaking the terms of contracts. Defenders of the EC might say they are going to decide on the basis of a “fair allocation”, but there is no such standard of fairness. If you make a contract, you should either stick to the terms or negotiate a new agreement both parties can accept. Otherwise, the other party to the contract just gets shafted and has no recourse. There is no fair way to fuck somebody over like that.
The second problem is that as anyone knows who has followed what has happened on YouTube over the past few years, the copyright as it stands has some major problems. It is already difficult to quote material produced by somebody else, even for the purposes of commentary. Those concerns don’t matter to the EC. They are accountable to nobody. Voters can’t vote them out. Nor can anyone else. So how are they supposed to decide what to do? The EC have to get their information about problems to address from somebody, so they get it from whoever can afford to lobby them.
This document is an example of why the UK should leave the EU. In its current state, the EU can’t be reformed or saved because it has no means of error correction. Sticking around in the hope that maybe the EU will learn a lesson that it has failed to learn over the past several decades, and which it has no means to learn, would be a bad idea.