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Death of internet? EU endorses killer copyright overhaul

Representatives of European Union governments have voted in favor of a plan in the EU Parliament to rewrite copyright rules, which critics say would effectively kill the Web there.

But the final few steps to implement the measure face strong opposition.

A key issue is a demand for a link tax, which would require any company linking to another source, a news site for example, to pay for that link.

There also would be mandated filters to prevent anything copyrighted from being uploaded anywhere.

Reuters reported that under the changes already approved, Google and Facebook would be “forced to share revenue with the creative industries and remove copyright-protected content on YouTube or Instagram.”

However, the privacy advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation warned the failings of early drafts of the law have been “made even worse.”

“Thankfully, Europeans aren’t taking this lying down. With the final vote expected to come during the March 25-28 session, mere weeks before European elections, European activists are pouring the pressure onto their Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), letting them know that their vote on this dreadful mess will be on everyone’s mind during the election campaigns,” the group said in a statement.

“The epicenter of the uprising is Germany, which is only fitting, given that German MEP Axel Voss is almost singlehandedly responsible for poisoning the directive with rules that will lead to mass surveillance and mass censorship, not to mention undermining much of Europe’s tech sector.”

Among the negative reactions was one from the German Consumer Association, which said: “The reform of copyright law in this form does not benefit anyone, let alone consumers. MEPs are now obliged to do so. Since the outcome of the trilogue falls short of the EU Parliament’s positions at key points, they should refuse to give their consent.”

There was a viral video of Voss being confronted by activists, and EFF said things “are just getting started.”

Hundreds of people who object to the changes marched through Cologne, Germany, and an “action day” is scheduled for March 23, just before the period for voting.

There’s also an online petition to “save Europe from the Directive.”

EFF said small businesses, entertainment conglomerates, artists’ groups, tech experts and human rights experts all have condemned the changes.

“Some of its clauses gave artists and scientists much-needed protections: artists were to be protected from the worst ripoffs by entertainment companies, and scientists could use copyrighted works as raw material for various kinds of data analysis and scholarship,” EFF reported. “Both of these clauses have now been gutted to the point of uselessness, leaving the giant entertainment companies with unchecked power to exploit creators and arbitrarily hold back scientific research.”

The group said: “Under the final text, any online community, platform or service that has existed for three or more years, or is making €10,000,001/year or more, is responsible for ensuring that no user ever posts anything that infringes copyright, even momentarily. This is impossible, and the closest any service can come to it is spending hundreds of millions of euros to develop automated copyright filters. Those filters will subject all communications of every European to interception and arbitrary censorship if a black-box algorithm decides their text, pictures, sounds or videos are a match for a known copyrighted work. They are a gift to fraudsters and criminals, to say nothing of censors, both government and private.

“These filters are unaffordable by all but the largest tech companies, all based in the USA, and the only way Europe’s homegrown tech sector can avoid the obligation to deploy them is to stay under ten million euros per year in revenue, and also shut down after three years.”

The organization explained Big Tech in America isn’t fond of the idea, but it will then have the possibility of growing “unchecked, without having yo contend with European competitors.”

The restrictions come under Article 13, which is one of two problematic areas. It would allow online platforms to “license” whatever their readers might upload, “meaning that they have to buy virtually anything any copyright holder offers to sell them, at any price, on pain of being liable for infringement if a user later uploads that work.”

The other problem is Article 11, “which allows news sites to decide who can link to their stories and charge for permission to do so.”

That section, too, has deteriorated, according to EFF.

“The final text clarifies that any link that contains more than ‘single words or very short extracts’ from a news story must be licensed, with no exceptions for noncommercial users, nonprofit projects, or even personal websites with ads or other income sources, no matter how small.”

The proposals now go to the European Parliament for a vote as early as March 25-28.

WND reported last year that the move had been delayed then restarted.

The plan started out as a much-needed update to copyright laws in the internet age. The laws haven’t been updated in nearly two decades.

EFF has blackly warned, “It can only be called an extinction-level event for the internet as we know it.”

There was no controversy until Voss quietly added changes that included the link tax and the copyright filters. Those ideas earlier had been dismissed by the EU’s own experts.

EFF predicted that full implementation would give America’s tech giants, Google, Facebook and others, “the right to permanently rule the internet.”