Axel Voss, MEP Behind Awful Internet Destroying EU Copyright Directive, Tries To Defend His Plan

from the and fails miserably dept

Axel Voss, the German Member of the EU Parliament in charge of pushing through the absolutely awful EU Copyright Directive is apparently (finally) feeling some of the heat from people speaking up about just how terrible Articles 11 (link tax) and 13 (mandatory upload filters) will be for the internet. He’s put out a video attempting to defend the plan. Even if you don’t speak German, I’d recommend watching the video to see his smirk throughout the whole thing. He does not seem to care, nor does he seem to understand the actual implications of what he’s doing. Considering that many have tried to explain this to him already, I doubt that we will change his mind, but it’s worth exploring just how clueless he appears to be on this issue, and how that should worry Europeans about the future of their internet.

We have at the moment an extreme imbalance in the whole copyright system, on the platforms everything is up loaded, but there is no remuneration of the concerned author, this is getting more by number and that is why I think it is urgently necessary to adapt the copyright to the digital environment.

What, exactly, is the “imbalance”? This is an important question, because the answer is that there is no “imbalance.” We live in a time when more content than ever before in history is being created. But it goes beyond that: thanks to the internet, more content creators than ever before in history are able to create and release their own content. And more creators than ever before in history are able to make money from their creations. The idea that “there is no remuneration” isn’t just nonsense, it suggests a level of ignorance so high on the part of Voss that he shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near questions related to copyright. Tons of different platforms — the very platforms which will be hit hardest by this nonsense — are instrumental in building new audiences for artists and helping them get paid.

Bandcamp, Patreon, Kickstarter, Vimeo, Medium, Etsy, DeviantArt, Shapeways, WordPress, Wix, Lulu, PledgeMusic, Artistshare, Blurb, Scribd, Smashwords, Redbubble, CreateSpace. These are all platforms that are helping a variety of creators create, build up an audience and make money. Yet all of them will be hit hard by Article 13’s ridiculous mandatory upload filters, which will in turn do tremendous harm to artists, taking away or greatly limiting their ability to use these platforms. The idea that there’s some “imbalance” that Voss can magically fix is nonsense. He’s been hearing too much from a few old school legacy businesses that failed to adapt to the internet and now blame Google. And his response is to saddle tons of internet platforms with an unworkable system that will harm all sorts of content creators. Meanwhile, his main target, Google, already has in place a system that has paid out billions of dollars to creators. Yet he continues to lie and claim there is no “remuneration”?

How does anyone take him seriously?

Meanwhile, nothing in the Copyright Directive is likely to get actual artists paid, so whatever false imbalance he sees isn’t “cured” by his plan. Google already has an upload filter for YouTube, so nothing changes there. The link tax has already been proven to be an utter failure in Germany and Spain and hasn’t gotten legacy publishers any more money — but has taken away some of their traffic (making them lose money).

So, again, why can’t Axel Voss explain what this mythical “imbalance” is?

After that, Voss talks specifically about upload filters, and claims that people complaining about them are engaged in “fake news.” Seriously.

This ‘nice’ fake news campaign that is done by the big platforms, with key words such as ‘censor machine’ or upload filter, etc so that everybody jumps up without ever having done a reflection on our systematic we established here. If you really look at it, it only concerns platforms, 1 to 5 per cent at all from the global internet and also only those that actually publish copyright protected content, by the clicks they earn money without dripping a single contribution. That we try now is to establish a recognition software for copyright protected content.

We already discussed much of this in responding to PRS’s silly attempt at “myth busting” claims about these upload filters. The fact that the law only targets platforms doesn’t mean that it doesn’t impact the users of those platforms.

Again, a filter would be a massive expense for many of the platforms I named above, and for many, it would make no sense at all. Yet, under the law, many would be obligated to try to build or buy such a filter. Others might simply stop operating in the EU altogether.

As for his attempt to downplay who it impacts, again, this shows just how incredibly ignorant Voss is of how the internet works. As we’ve mentioned in the past, under Article 13, a site like Tinder would be required to invest in an expensive copyright filter to scan all the images people upload. After all, it publishes lots of copyright-protected content, and it earns money on those images as a commercial business. But is anyone actually going to Tinder for copyright infringement? Of course not, but Voss doesn’t seem to care or notice.

And, thanks to the way copyright is now, every platform that allows for user generated content involves publishing “copyright protected content” and assuming it has ads or collects money in anyway, it’s commercial. So, this includes forum sites, for example. Are they going to have to pre-scan every comment to make sure it doesn’t infringe on some copyright? Voss seems to think only in terms of the largest platforms, and doesn’t even give a second thought to the fact that much of the internet is for communicating with one another – and that will involve platforms where users upload content as part of communicating with others. All of that content needs to be scanned?

Voss then responds to other MEPs speaking out against the Directive, calling it “nonsense.”

To 99,9 per cent do I assume that they have not once read article 2 and article 13 together. Then I have to say if you don’t pay attention to what we do here, then I have to declare it as nonsense. When you take a look at what we try to achieve, to apply after all copyright, if we want to abandon this or if the German colleagues want to abandon this all, so they need to say so, but only to harp on about it, because it is now ‘en vogue’ to use that word, this I think is wrong.

This is both insulting and ridiculous. The complaints are well thought out and argued and point out just how little Voss actually understands about the damage he’s about to do to the internet, and he insults them and brushes it off pretending that “99.9%” haven’t even read the Directive. This is not about what’s “en vogue,” this is about stopping Voss from fundamentally mucking up key parts of how the internet works because a few legacy industries went crying to him over their own inability to adapt to the changing world.

And that brings us to the whole link tax bit:

Neighbouring rights should in principle support the press work, the work of journalists is in a certain way accompanied, so to say the analogue platform for their content; it is legally and factual secured and there is an economical responsibility.

This now completely put into question, due to the fact that there are platforms that use simply the achievements of the publisher without paying anything. And by this the whole press system in a democratic structure becomes dependent from platforms. This is something we don’t want to accept this. Therefore we need to ask ourselves the question if we want an independent press in our democratic society, also financially independent and does it represent a value. And if we believe in this value we should look into ensuring it.

This… not only misunderstands how the internet works, but also how media works. Again, the target here is Google News, which Voss incorrectly seems to think is somehow responsible for many newspapers’ economic struggles. But that’s nonsense. Google News drives traffic to these websites. And, if they don’t think it’s valuable, it literally takes 5 seconds for any publisher to opt-out of having its stories appear in Google News. But they won’t do that, because they know it’s valuable. Destroying Google News won’t save news publishers.

He continues, arguing that the link tax isn’t really a link tax:

Everybody that wants to create link for a private purpose can continue to do so, this part we excluded precisely, but those who gain again money through this, by a commercial use, they should ask if they can do it or not.

I don’t understand the whole excitement, this is common and part of our value and justice system and to transfer it to the internet and to get this impression that nothing is allowed now, no single person won’t be touched by this. The contrary, we will make it possible that each one can up load content, can use it without being in a legal obligation and this reform brings this positive aspect.

Got that? If you make money by linking, you need to ask permission first. That’s… insane. It completely and fundamentally changes the way the internet works. The whole freaking idea behind the internet is you can link to anywhere on the internet… and Voss just wants to completely toss that out he window. And then complains that he “doesn’t understand the whole excitement.”

Voss doesn’t seem to understand that lots of “amateur” and “hobby” sites put up advertisements, or take donations or crowdfunding, just to fund the site. But, those sites “gain money” and thus are “commercial” under his confused view of the world — and therefore can no longer link without first getting permission. Again, this is so mind-blowingly backwards, and goes against everything that the internet itself was built around. And for what purpose? Because a few old school newspapers can’t adapt and are demanding Google pay them money.

What becomes abundantly clear is that Axel Voss has no business being in charge of copyright reform in the EU. He doesn’t understand copyright. He doesn’t understand the internet. And yet, he’s very, very close to fundamentally changing the thing he doesn’t understand, based on ideas he doesn’t seem to comprehend.

On Thursday, the EU Parliament will vote on this awful plan, and it’s incredibly important to contact MEPs to let them know to not to let Voss’s ignorance ruin the internet.

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Comments on “Axel Voss, MEP Behind Awful Internet Destroying EU Copyright Directive, Tries To Defend His Plan”

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31 Comments
Anonymoussays:

on the platforms everything is up loaded, but there is no remuneration of the concerned author,

Does he not realize that most of the time the author is not looking for renumeration from distribution of the digital work. They may have paper copies on Amazon, or an Audio version on Audible, (also Amazon), or have some form of patronage account set up. Some, just publish because they want their stories heard, and to be part of the community of story tellers.

Bergmansays:

Re:

It’s even sillier than that. Amazon is also a content upload platform.

Suppose Mr Author writes a book. He sells it as an ebook for a couple Euros on his own website, and then has a chance to greatly expand his market exposure by selling it for the same couple Euros price on Amazon. Amazon scans his upload against a copyright database and…whoops, it’s copyrighted!

So he gets told he can’t sell his own book, that he owns all the rights to, on Amazon — and if he keeps trying to upload it he’ll eventually get banned from Amazon. And how does he prove he owns the rights? He needs a live person to review his upload, but due to the daily volume of uploads, Amazon can’t hire enough people to actually do that.

So Mr Author gets to wait months or even years to begin making money on his book, all in the name of protecting his intellectual property and ensuring he can be paid promptly and fairly for his work.

Anonymoussays:

Got that? If you make money by linking, you need to ask permission first. That’s… insane. It completely and fundamentally changes the way the internet works.

I’m sorry, but I have to disagree with the author here. We already have a permission system in-place. It is a part of the the WWW and has been for a very long time. It’s not insane and it works well.

It is the robots.txt file. All well behaved web crawlers check the robots.txt file to see if they are being denied permission (there is a dead simple deny all option). Since Google’s crawler already checks this file, it is already asking for permission before crawling.

Anonymoussays:

Re:

What about someone reading an article on the site of a local newspaper, and then posting a link to that article, ob Facebook Twitter etc. Why should those companies now have to pay a link tax. Note robots.txt does not apply in that situation, and the page may not be indexed by the search engines, but it is common practice of users of those sites.

That is where it has a fundamental impact on the use of the Internet.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re:

Being the earlier Anonymous Coward in this conversation, I see your point. While I personally think the link-tax/permission side is stupid as it will mean less traffic driven to the site linked to, I do see your argument that maybe you don’t want your site to be linked to. In such a case, you have a valid point.

I could counter that Twitter/Facebook/etc. could check the Robots.txt and if it blocks their robot, they also should block their users from posting said link. However, as you pointed out, that is not the case today.

But the functionality is still there (robots.txt) and not costly to implement. It could even be expanded to have a line for “go here to purchase your link license”.

You are right, as it stands today robots.txt doesn’t cover all examples where “permission” might be desirable by some.

I hope the solution is that search engines simply de-index everything in the EU.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re:

I could counter that Twitter/Facebook/etc. could check the Robots.txt and if it blocks their robot, they also should block their users from posting said link.

That is censorship of harmless speech, as how can people have a reasoned discussion of news and politics if they cannot link to sources?.

Bergmansays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Exactly. Posting a link as part of commentary is no different than talking about the story. I doubt the EU would pass a law making it illegal to say anything at all about a news article to a friend without a payment in advance.

Then again, I’ve been wrong about the lower limits of stupidity of politicians many times before.

ShadowNinjasays:

To 99,9 per cent do I assume that they have not once read article 2 and article 13 together. Then I have to say if you don?t pay attention to what we do here, then I have to declare it as nonsense. When you take a look at what we try to achieve, to apply after all copyright, if we want to abandon this or if the German colleagues want to abandon this all, so they need to say so, but only to harp on about it, because it is now ?en vogue? to use that word, this I think is wrong.

The problem with this is that it’s often quite difficult to read many proposed laws even if you try to.

Politico wrote an article about this years ago. Many laws the US congress writes don’t actually contain the full text of the law. Instead it contains a ton of references to section #, paragraph # of other existing laws. Hence if you want to read a proposed law, you first have to gather the text of 30+ different existing laws already on the book first.

And then even if you try to read the whole text of the law, if you aren’t a lawyer, good look understanding a lot of parts of it.

And yes, this means that if you amend an existing law you can also amend a boatload of other existing laws by accident if you aren’t careful.

(Note: Yes the US and EU are different countries, but I’m sure the same issue exists in the EU in a lot of legislation).

Anonymoussays:

And this is why we don't write patch files out longhand

The legislative process has a tooling issue — most bills are basically patch files (changesets), only written out longhand, which is why they’re so bloody incomprehensible. If only the Unix folks had invented a tool to automate this job almost 50 years ago…

Mike Masnicksays:

Re:

Mike Masnick: Still shitting on artists and shilling for billionaires.

I’m really curious if you could explain this to me. In this post, I point out all the many, many platforms that help artists build fanbases and make money and how they’ll be harmed by this bill. How is that shitting on artists?

As for shilling for billionaires, Google and Facebook can handle the EU Copyright directive. Everyone else cannot. So this bill will lock in those two giants, giving them even more leverage, while fucking over all the smaller players who actually work more closely with artists.

So, who exactly is doing the bidding of the large platforms again, and who is on the side of artists? It looks like you’ve got it backwards.

John Roddysays:

Re:

Billionaires? You mean, like, recording industries? The ones who stand to benefit the most from this kind of deal?

I know you love to hate on Google, but are you really OK with the idea of transferring all of Google’s power to record labels for abuse? I thought you were against corporations. Why are you trying to give them so much more power?

Re: Re:

Every single copyright maximalist-on-principle type I’ve ever argued with turned out to be a failed artist of some kind. Either their work is mediocre at best or their mad protectionism prevents them from reaching a wider audience due to fear of either losing out on pay-per-play revenues or someone else copying their work and taking credit for it.

Every. Single. Time.

Meanwhile, the more successful creators I interact with (check out Preston Reed at some point. The man is a legend!) are more open and friendly, putting their work out where we can see it to use it as advertising for live performances and merchandise, etc.

IPR protectionism is counter-productive.

Anonymoussays:

"extreme imbalance" is spending $100 million on movie, only to

have it stolen by a 100 million pirates, NONE of whom ever hand over a buck, so can’t even break even.

We live in a time when more content than ever before in history is being created.

SO? That’s been true EVERY year since at least 1450s when the printing press was invented! — Problem NOW is that people can TAKE works in pretty nearly best quality for free.

And again, your premising assertion that "teh internets" works as should is just wrong. The safe harbors were based on foolish belief that large numbers of people would PAY for the content that they enjoy. WE NOW KNOW THE NUMBERS OF THIEVES INCLUDING COMMERCIAL SCALE ONES LIKE YOUTUBE.

Anonymoussays:

Re: "extreme imbalance" is spending $100 million on movie, only to

I have news for you, Hollywood will not pay you to make your movie because you have not managed to sell them on the idea, or your ability to make it.

Also most of the content on YouTube is perfectly legal original material, and is why most people use YouTube.

Madd the Sanesays:

Re: "extreme imbalance" is spending $100 million on movie, only to

Dude, calm down. You won’t get your point across if you yell.

If a movie had 100 million pirates downloading it, I’d say there’s something else wrong such as region restrictions.

Yes, there are companies that abuse copyright protections to get a lot of money. They’re called the film and music industries. Many of them are worse than any pirate, not paying for work done for them, breaching contract ("Only show this one time" uses it as an advertisement campaign), or when they crop the copyright off of an independent photographer’s image as advertising material. That’s not even going into their restrictive contracts they have young people sign just to mooch of their talents while they do nothing.

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