How Many Times Can the Internet Be Broken? #copyrightreform

Today the European Commission presented its copyright reform. (One week ahead of schedule! Who are they trying to impress?) Expectations were high after President Juncker’s big words in the State of the Union address this morning:

We have to empower our artists and creators. They are our crown jewels. It is not a hobby, it is a profession.

Hear! Hear! Of course, it would have been nice to see some policy in the same direction. The copyright reform proposals leave those crown jewels wanting. Here are some of the main issues:

Portability – great in theory, but it clashes with other consumer interests like locally tailored content and price adjusted to purchasing power (which varies across the EU, even in the digital space in case somebody forgot). And of course, if you want to help creators and artists, make sure their rights are as valuable as possible with as little restrictions as possible to make the agreements they want.

SAT/CAB – this is dodgy: those rules were set up in a different century for technologies (satellite and cable transmissions of television) that work completely different than the famous end-to-end architecture of the global internet. Surely the policy-maker can do better, this is like applying the rules of ocean shipping to air travel. Now, how many days ahead should you call the port master and announce your arrival?

Exceptions – great if disabled people and educators can have more access to content, but if this is attempted via copyright exceptions, the incentive to invest in educational literature becomes smaller which means educators and disabled can end up with free access to less content. It’s not like it’s the educational book publishers who drive Teslas and live in mansions. The money is elsewhere. Each exception takes away from the value made by creators and artists. What about the opposite approach – perhaps we should support weaker groups so they can pay for content tailored to their needs? Put that in your copyright reform proposal!

Nothing good in there? Yes, I really like the idea of the Google-tax (=forcing platforms to share revenue when publishing snippets of other people’s content). No, seriously. Commissioner Öttinger explained the logic at an event last week: it failed in Spain and Germany because they’re too small, but no global player can ignore Europe. Good on you, Commissioner Öttinger! Keep it up!

Of course, there was a plentiful supply of anti-copyright fundamentalists who cried “This will break the Internet”. Poor Internet, it has been broken so many times now, it’s amazing there’s a single DNS server remaining. Yet I managed to post this with no problem, so it seems at least parts of it are still running after all.