Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Article 13

Europe has now passed a copyright bill that includes the controversial Article 13.  As someone who wanders widely on the internet, I see some communities celebrating this as a much-needed defense against privacy, and others as the decriminalization of memes and fan-fics.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle and largely unclear at this point.  This article uses some pretty vague language to say that online media platforms must make efforts to prevent unauthorized sharing of copyrighted works.  That is, they can't just ignore the problem and maybe respond to take-down notices when they feel like it.

This is likely to narrow the current zones-of-tolerance for some less transformative types of fan-sharing and fan-works--and mistakes are bound to be made.  The main methods of achieving compliance will be automated processes and false positives will abound.  But requiring any kind of less-error-prone manual assessment would quickly make content sharing platforms slower or more expensive to access.

Essentially this bill represents battle that large rights-owners (such as music organizations) have won over large content-sharing platforms (like Google and YouTube).  It was never really about small scale producers or users and the outcomes for us are bound to be mixed as blunt instruments are employed by both sides. 

I just hope that everyone can now start to have a more nuanced conversation about the difference between acts of exploitation like plagiarism and piracy, and acts of fan engagement like live-streaming video-game play and creating fan-works.

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