I know most of us in the United States are only ever used to hearing about our own political controversies and news. Most mainstream news stations such as CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and others focus so much of the politics of the United States that often times the pressing governmental matters of other countries get lost in the 24-hour news cycle. One of these foreign political developments that isn’t getting nearly enough mainstream attention is the recent vote on Articles 11 and 13 in the European Union.
For those that haven’t heard about this massive piece of news from across the pond, the European Union voted on and passed a controversial piece of legislation last week in Strasbourg, France. This directive was initially blocked last July over concerns about the two most controversial pieces of the legislation: Article 11 and Article 13. Since the July block, the two articles were revised, but the core substance and purpose of both remain unchanged. These articles both involve copyright law, specifically internet copyright.
Article 11 is concerned with, in its own words, “Protection of press publications concerning digital uses.” In layman’s terms, Article 11 forces any online resource or website to pay a toll to cite publishers and papers. An example would be if Google News or Wikipedia wanted to use an article that was published by a certain company in one of their own articles or informational papers, Google and Wikipedia would have to pay said company a certain amount of money to do so. The opposition to this article has aptly named it the “link tax” on account of its aforementioned purpose. Imagine if a smaller press publication like The Spectrum, Fargo Forum, Bismarck Tribune or some other smaller publication had to pay its sources every time they cite or mention them in an article. Hell, my last article for this paper cited a study from the World Health Organization. If this paper was published in the EU, I would’ve had to pay a toll to the World Health Organization just because The Spectrum website published my story on it with one of their studies as a source.
But as bureaucratic and restrictive as Article 11 is, Article 13 has received even more backlash from the general public, especially those who spend a sizable amount of time consuming online entertainment and information. Article 13 is similar in many ways to Article 11, although with a few key differences. The most distinct of these differences being Article 13’s focus on online entities using copyrighted content. Essentially, Article 13 will require internet platforms such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook to work with shareholders to scan all data coming through their platforms and stop their users from uploading copyrighted content. Not only does this require an almost impossible amount of internet content filtering, it also censors a massive amount of the internet’s content.
Let’s say you run a vlog or YouTube channel where you review movies or video games. Under Article 13, you can’t use copyrighted images or footage from a movie or video game, even if you’re using it for satirical or comedic purposes. Despite the fact that most video and entertainment websites enforce preexisting copyright laws and acknowledge fair use laws, the European Union still feels the need to restrict free expression on the internet. Want to make a video review of the “Battlefield V” beta? Sorry, but you have to pay Electronic Arts before they let you use a five-second clip of gameplay. Want to use a panel from the newest Superman comic book in your blog? Sorry buddy, but you better cough up coin or else DC will shut you down. Even memes that use images, music or video clips from copyrighted media will be censored under Article 13. Imagine having to pay money just to use a still image from a cartoon for a meme.
Not only do these two disastrous articles stifle free expression on the internet in Europe, it virtually kills all small startup websites. If someone wants to start a new music review website or a news website from scratch, they’ll have to pay out of pocket every time they cite a copyrighted piece of writing or even use copyrighted images and sound bites in a video. How are the smaller internet websites and entities supposed to compete with massive companies such as Facebook or Viacom? How are people even supposed to make commentaries or informational pieces on movies or academics when they have to pay a tax just to reference a paper?
Despite how corporatist these new laws are in their blatant favoritism toward larger companies and how they stifle free expression on the internet, there’s an even bigger and more concrete issue with these two articles. Under these two new directives, internet companies would have to somehow sift through each and every piece of data that goes through their websites, making sure that none of them contain copyrighted material. Not only does this put yet another massive burden on smaller startups, but it is also borderline impossible without cutting corners in some way.
Like I said at the beginning of this article, not enough people, in my opinion, pay attention to the news and politics of countries outside the United States. Under the nose of most people, the European Union just effectively killed free expression and competition on the internet. This is the danger of letting a globalist bureaucracy have this much power; the power to regulate and control the world wide web across several prominent Western countries. I’ll bet my entire college fund that the EU’s blatant censorship doesn’t stop here. Given their track record of favoring censorship and the erosion of individual sovereignty, I wouldn’t be surprised if the European Union continues down this anti-Western path. Hopefully, they realize the error of their ways soon because right now it looks like Mark Zuckerberg and those like him are going to have a vice grip on one of humanity’s greatest technological achievements yet.