Copyright Law From EU Article 11 Will Be The Death of Online Journalism

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It is one of the premiere features of a political news page to make commentary on articles created by other sites for a variety of purposes. This is how Being Libertarian frequently shares the libertarian perspective on policies and actions that become newsworthy without disseminating a full work.

According to European Parliament, this function should be subject to the publishing authority’s whims and desire to make profit off of licensing. The partner to the controversial EU Copyright Directive Article 13 (which makes platform owners responsible for the copyright infringements of their users), Article 11, “gives publishers a right to ask for paid licenses when online platforms share their stories,” according to The Verge.

Being dubbed a “link tax,” the article is intended to target tech giants like Facebook and Google for sharing publishers’ content without paying license fees. The directive would be disastrous for small news companies and according to Gizmodo, could severely harm free education sites dependent on links such as Wikipedia.

“Wikimedia is an integral part of a large movement of civil society stakeholders, technologists, creators, and human rights defenders, who all recognize the importance of a free and open web for culture, progress, and democracy,” wrote Eileen Hershenov, General Counsel of the Wikimedia Foundation, continuing, “Our movement is working to promote freedom online for the benefit of all. […] This is why we strongly oppose the proposed EU Copyright Directives and urge the Members of the European Parliament to reconsider proceeding […].”

Even with the supposed exemption for small and micro-enterprises, which as Cory Doctorow of the Electronic Frontier Organization notes, will only serve the large companies who can afford to be ardent copyright police, forcing smaller companies to remain small, social media platforms will surely over-censor and over-filter to avoid any possibility of having to pay fees.

What does this mean for American libertarian journalism? Presumably, content based in the US would not be under the EU’s jurisdiction, but Facebook and Google host an international audience and algorithms for flagging unauthorized content have a history of targeting legitimate creations and legal uses of copyrighted material.

“[…] if you’re a professional photographer, or just a regular person posting your own work, there’s no time in your life to become a hardcore filter-warrior. When a filter mistakes your work for copyright infringement, you can’t just bypass the filter with a trick from the copyright infringing underground: you have to send an appeal to the platform that blocked you, getting in line behind millions of other poor suckers in the same situation as you. Cross your fingers and hope that the overworked human reviewing the appeals decides that you’re in the right,” explains Doctorow.

Increasing the complication of this policy, the directive does not specify how each country should apply it, making a potential 27 different variations of copyright and licensing enforcement. This news is certainly troublesome for websites whose base is ambiguous like Being Libertarian, which has contributors across the globe and frequently critiques world news, but also has a large following in other countries.

The directive should be alarming for anyone who aspires to be an independent journalist, as our jobs are going to be that much harder with crony corporatist licensing of copyrighted material and the tendency for social media to be inconsistent and overflowing with mistaken bans and removals of legitimate material. Even writers in the US, Canada, Latin America, and Asia will now have to become weary of their content being flagged as misusing a European publishing firms material. Unfortunately, the impact on the rest of the world will not be clear until Articles 11 and 13 are enacted and tech companies decide how to react; but it is those of us who thrive on independent media who must voice our rejection and be active in fighting this injustice.

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Luke Henderson

Since joining the Libertarian Party in 2016, Luke Henderson has been active in the liberty movement through journalism and political activism. Luke is an educator, composer of fine art and electronic music, and also contributes to Think Liberty, Antiwar.com and the Libertarian Coalition.