Will EU Parliament Go Kim Kardashian?

Is the EU Parliament going to break the internet? Yes, at least according to some who oppose the EU’s Copyright reform. Does this sound familiar? That’s because this song has been playing for a long time. Every proposal to bring some kind of rule of law to online heard that same refrain. The current (and ineffective) process of notice and take-down has been argued to break the internet. It has been in place since 1998, by the way. Not only copyleftist and internet activists use this last line of defense, Google chairman Eric Schmidt said it on a visit to Stockholm in November. Except he may be a copyleftist and or internet activist in his own right. (At least his business pays them.) The IPRED Directive was supposed to break the internet (that is from 2004). In fact, if I had an ice cream for every time somebody told me a policy would break the internet, I would have to get a bigger freezer.

Behind the idea of breaking the internet, is the notion of the virgin land, a new frontier, where everybody is happily sharing files and helping one another. The only threat to the virtual campfire Kumbaya is the evil copyright owners who will do anything to wreck the party. That may have been the feeling when Napster first came out twenty years ago, but on closer inspection it has never been the case. The internet was born from regulation, military research, public funding and ideology. The utopian freedom was always a pipe dream. Look at the internet today and it’s nothing like a campfire with boyscouts with marshmallows on sticks. It’s a fundamental infrastructure for modern society. But it’s run by a handful of big companies who hardly make rules that favour the common good over their share prices. On the other end is an underbelly of phishing, trolls, crime, spam and all sorts of crap. The rest of us our stuck in the middle. Not a minute too late to introduce the concept of democracy to the internet. The internet has never been free and open. The threats to freedom and openness don’t come from the European Parliament. In fact the EP may be our best bet to protect freedom and openness.

Will the copyright reform kill memes? Remixes? Kill Wikipedia? Bring censorship? Just like previous policies did not break the internet, of course not. Here is a good walk-through of the various misunderstandings. However, it may be that the copyright reform will make illegal content harder to access. If you think that would be bad, it’s probably better to talk about memes and Wikipedia than pirated blockbusters. Much more convincing, at least until you take a closer look.

Anyway, we should know by now only Kim Kardashian can break the internet!