Felix Kjellberg, better known worldwide as top Youtube star PewDiePie, is in the news again. This time, he’s inspiring the ire of leftists by appearing in a music video protesting the possible passage of European Union Article 13.
For those who haven’t been following what’s known as “Robocopyright”, Article 13 is officially titled, “The European Union Directive on Copyright and the Digital Single Market.”. It’s a set of regulations that would use copyright and intellectual property restrictions that would hamper the creation and longevity of social media upstarts, and make it virtually impossible for citizens to create memes without passing mandated government filters.
And our leftist pals think the EU isn’t Orwellian…
The video comes by way of Dr. Grandayy, which the good Doctor announced March 22 on Twitter, and in it, he and PewDiePie are on fire.
Justifiably so. For nearly a year, pro-liberty commentators and internet content creators alike have been trying to inform the world about the dangers of Article 13, which, thanks to EU sleight of hand, has been renumbered Article 17 – and no way would anyone see that as potential subterfuge to hide the vote…
And on Tuesday, the members of the EU Parliament will take the final vote.
Perhaps the best overview of it comes via novelist and supporter of the Creative Commons, Cory Doctorow, who, in a recent piece for the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF), spelled out how this monstrosity mutated, and what it will do.
As he notes, it started as a motley assemblage of mandates and a few “reforms”:
The Copyright Directive was always a grab bag of updates to EU copyright rules—which are long overdue for an overhaul, given that it's been 18 years since the last set of rules were ratified. Some of its clauses gave artists and scientists much-needed protections: artists were to be protected from the worst ripoffs by entertainment companies, and scientists could use copyrighted works as raw material for various kinds of data analysis and scholarship.
But the tiny bits of good were plucked out.
Both of these clauses have now been gutted to the point of uselessness, leaving the giant entertainment companies with unchecked power to exploit creators and arbitrarily hold back scientific research.
Just how will this be done, and who will benefit from the inevitable “regulatory capture” of the new mandates? Doctorow nails it:
Under the final text, any online community, platform or service that has existed for three or more years, or is making €10,000,001/year or more, is responsible for ensuring that no user ever posts anything that infringes copyright, even momentarily. This is impossible, and the closest any service can come to it is spending hundreds of millions of euros to develop automated copyright filters. Those filters will subject all communications of every European to interception and arbitrary censorship if a black-box algorithm decides their text, pictures, sounds or videos are a match for a known copyrighted work. They are a gift to fraudsters and criminals, to say nothing of censors, both government and private.
So we know one group that will see its bread buttered even more: politicians.
And we know who else will win:
America's Big Tech companies would certainly prefer not to have to install these filters, but the possibility of being able to grow unchecked, without having to contend with European competitors, is a pretty good second prize (which is why some of the biggest US tech companies have secretly lobbied for filters).
The losers will be start-ups and internet users, including creators and those who would enjoy the wide array of new art and expression, including political expression, that is facilitated by allowing people to, say, use a still-capture from a movie, or a few bars of famous music, to create memes.
You will see memes policed in the EU if this passes. You will see video creators hit with copyright strikes left and right.
More to the point, you will see only the largest social media companies, the ones most flush with assets, able to afford the licenses and filtering software to publish new creations based on preexisting artistic packages. If you don’t want to use those mega-corporations as your social platforms? Tough luck, baby. This is the EU, and even the emperors of Rome would tremble in the presence of the Brussels bureaucrats.
These filters are unaffordable by all but the largest tech companies, all based in the USA, and the only way Europe's homegrown tech sector can avoid the obligation to deploy them is to stay under ten million euros per year in revenue, and also shut down after three years.
Sums it up pretty darned well.
Look, one does not have to be a critic of the EU or a supporter of Brexit to see that, in Article 13, the European Union has, created another bureaucratic beast.
I, like Doctorow, believe there is a better way to handle the protection of ideas than to place it in the hands of politicians.
For example if politicians had been a bit faster in revamping copyright laws in the US, one of the greatest albums ever made, The Beastie Boys’ “Paul’s Boutique”, could not have been created. They, and Mike Simpson, of the inimitable Dust Brothers, were able to use hundreds of samples on the album that, if they had tried a few years later, would have seen them fined or sent to jail if they wouldn’t pay the fine. No doubt the album would have been forbidden from being released.
For years, Youtubers and bands like The Prodigy have used samples to create mashups and new songs. Heck, even composers such as John Williams are said to employ musical themes and structures from other famous pieces.
The question is: if government weren’t around to pass laws like Article 13, would people create? Isn’t it a kind of consequentialist positive to make sure everyone can enjoy the work of original content creators, even as politicians stop other content creators from using old content as the raw materials for their new work?
The answer lies in the market. There is nothing stopping people from making point-of-sale agreements regarding the use, relabeling, reworking, or reshaping of an original artistic creation. From there, property rights claims, contract, and common law could be used to facilitate selling avenues and private adjudication for possible breaches, and consumers could benefit from arrangements that weren’t dictated by politicians handing special favors to the largest firms with the most money to hand out to the politicians.
Why not consider it?