Article 13 Is Back On: Germany Caves To France As EU Pushes Forward On Ruining The Internet

By Mon, Feb 4th 2019 9:37am — Mike Masnick

When last we checked in on the EU Copyright Directive it had been put on hold when the European Council (with representatives from all the member states) didn't have enough votes to move forward on a so-called "compromise" draft. Most of the council rejected it for the right reasons -- though a few (including France) were holding out to make the law worse. Since then there has been an ongoing back channel negotiation between France and Germany over whose vision would win out. Both of them support very problematic versions of the Directive, though France's is worse. Specifically, France doesn't want any exemptions for smaller internet websites in Article 13 (which will effectively make internet filters mandatory), while Germany wanted to include at least some safe harbors for smaller sites. After a bunch of back and forth, it's now being reported that Germany has caved to France and will now support the Directive, with very little in the way of protections for smaller sites. This is on top of all the other awful stuff in the Directive, including mandatory filtering (that they pretend is not mandatory filtering), huge fines, and liability for any site allowing infringement. The draft apparently still includes a weird and mostly useless safe harbor for sites hosting user-generated content -- which is what made the legacy entertainment industry bail out on its support of the Directive.

So, to be clear, there is now a draft that is worse than the draft that couldn't get the Council's approval a few weeks ago, and that will have an even bigger impact on the internet by sweeping up tons of smaller sites as well as the larger ones, which will do serious harm to any sites that host user-generated content. And you can't find anyone -- outside of the company selling internet filters -- who supports this. The internet companies are all still against the bill. The legacy entertainment companies are whining that it doesn't go far enough.

And, yet, this draft is likely to be added back on the schedule for a meeting this Friday.

There is nothing good about this. The EU bureaucrats negotiating this get really, really annoyed by anyone suggesting that this bill will kill off "memes," but that's not an exaggeration. The bill is literally designed to make it impossible for a site that has not purchased licenses from everyone to allow users to post new content. Meme culture was built almost entirely on free and open message boards and social media, without licenses. But hosting such a site in the EU will now be effectively impossible -- or very, very expensive, with massive restrictions, filters and lockdowns. In such a world, it is difficult to see how new memes can take off, outside of a narrowly prescribed set of "officially sanctioned/licensed" memes -- and we all know what kind of quality that will bring.

This whole thing is an exercise in stupidity, brought about by a cynical legacy entertainment industry that made up a fake concept called "the value gap" that they insisted needed to be closed. And the only way to "close" it, according to the very same lobbyists, was to effectively turn off what made the internet great: the fact that it is, and has always been, an open medium for communication and sharing.

This can still be stopped, but it's going to rely on the EU Parliament actually having a backbone and saying that this is not acceptable. And that is going to require people in Europe to contact their MEPs and telling them not to wreck the internet.

Filed Under: article 11, article 13, copyright, eu, eu copyright directive, eu council, filters, france, germany, intermediary liability, mandatory filters, memes, safe harbors, trilogue negotiations