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Copyright opposition gets weirder

SHENANIGANS continue in the world of copyright. The European Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market is currently being negotiated between the Parliament, the Council that represents the member states, and the Commission - the EU civil service. Lobbying is getting weirder by the day.

One highlight has been copyright sceptic Cory Doctorow proposing - on the deeply anti-copyright Electronic Frontier Foundation site - that we should all oppose the part of the proposal called "Article 13". Instead, "we could create blanket licenses and set fair... prices for each viewing. The artists could get a mandatory minimum share of those payments, overriding the contracts they negotiate under duress with the entertainment companies." This share would be distributed through collecting societies.

Sounds great. And it is precisely what Article 13 enables, together with the creatively-named "Article Minus 14" mandating that creators shold get a fair share.

Doctorow's position is strange, because his piece followed a forceful reminder of exactly this from, er, me. None of the copyright opponents have read the key part of the proposal: none of the dreaded "filtering" of uploaded works is required unless the internet giants refuse to pay licence fees.

Instead, we have seen YouTube - owned by Google - nagging kids to pester their parents to oppose the Directive. That rather gets to the heart of their case - the gut reaction of a child "but why can't I copy this?"

The best bit, however, may be the Berlin district of Lichtenberg encouraging Google to set up a new headquarters in the old building of the East German security service - which, we note, was beautifully fictionalised in the film The Lives of Others.

Updated 2 January 2019

In other news...

To no-one's surprise, Google threatened to shut down its News operation in Europe if the measure giving publishers the right to charge a licence fee goes through. (Note to all headline writers: that's not a "tax".) That's what they did to news.google.es when Spain introduced a similar measure. (Oooh, they've changed the previous grumpy "it's gone because evil publishers" page there. We need to translate the new one.) We reported in August that the European Federation of Journalists had agreed with four publishers' organisations that writers and photographers must get a fair share of any income from this new right.

Google has also been lobbying Member States to include wording in the Directive specifying that publishers can license works to it for free. That would be legislating, in other words, for the scam it pulled off with German publishers when it told them they could license for free or not show up in searches.

Efforts funded by Google and other internet corporations to exploit children's pester power by claiming that Article 13 will "ban memes" continue to pay off, with the BBC running the headline "Copyright laws threaten use of internet memes". No they don't. No response yet to my complaint.

Such corporate campaigners continue to wheel out the Internet Patriarchs. Tip: when Tim Berners-Lee says "X will break the internet" the internet is fine. The threats lie elsewhere.

Confronted with all this, mere fact-based campaigns such as LoveMusic have an uphill task.

And what about that making-a-living-online thing?

Is all this defence of authors' rights old-fashioned? Is the new business model of monetizing your content through YouTube ads and whatnot doomed to replace getting paid for what you create?

Not for many people, it isn't, as this analysis on Medium.com makes clear: "100,000 subscribers might bring you $1000 per month via ad revenue and $5000 per month through 2 to 3 sponsored videos. This sounds promising, but... three obviously sponsored videos in a month would definitely be noticed by your followers, and it might taint your relationship with them"... not to mention your relationship with your own unsold soul.

Further afield...

South Africa looks to be catching the "Canadian flu" and heading towards adoption of a broad, unnecessary, poorly-defined educational exception to copyright, says the Chair of the International Authors Forum. That would be a law replacing the concept of "fair dealing" in precisely-defined exceptions to copyright with the temptingly-named but dreadfully slack US concept of "fair use" - which means that unless you have $1 million handy to challenge a powerful company using your work, it gets away with it.

The effect of a change in Canada's law is spelled out in a video from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: "Canadian writers are poorer now than in the past" as they lose most of their payments from library copying. On a brighter note, in a Quebec court authors won $CA 2 million from the Université Laval for over-applying that law. This being French-speaking Quebec, the named plaintiffs also got payments for breaches of their moral rights in their work.

  • More follows soon...