The European Union’s Parliament is poised to vote on a controversial copyright law that critics say could squash free speech as practiced on YouTube and Facebooks and that proponents say would curtail the decades-long theft of creative property by tech firms like Google.
Movie directors and European news outlets alike favor the law, which is scheduled for a vote this week. According to TechCrunch:
The most controversial component of the proposals concerns user-generated content platforms such as YouTube, and the idea they should be made liable for copyright infringements committed by their users — instead of the current regime of takedowns after the fact (which locks rights holders into having to constantly monitor and report violations — y’know, at the same time as Alphabet’s ad business continues to roll around in dollars and eyeballs).
Critics of the proposal argue that shifting the burden of rights liability onto platforms will flip them from champions to chillers of free speech, making them reconfigure their systems to accommodate the new level of business risk.
The Guardian reports that another hotly-contested portion of the law would require Google and other Internet companies to pay creators for snippets of work that appear in Facebook newsfeeds or on Google News.
Europe’s biggest news agencies have accused Google and Facebook of “plundering” their property to build giant, vampiric, advertising companies that drain revenue that should be going to those who create content.
“For the sake of Europe’s free press and democratic values, EU lawmakers should press ahead with copyright reform,” said a statement signed by 20 agencies, including the Press Association and Agence France-Presse, according to The Guardian.
News companies aren’t the only ones critical of the tech companies. Musicians say they’re being ripped off by Google as well.
“That is fundamentally unfair,” said Dave Rowntree, the drummer in Blur, on a recent visit to Brussels to meet European lawmakers. “YouTube have rather cleverly found a niche for themselves where they can have their cake and eat it. They can use clever artificial intelligence software to see what the user is doing … yet when it comes to having to pay out a fair share they say ‘no … we just provide a website’.”