What to say about it … We are facing an issue more than generational, it’s epochal. An issue that does not concern only publishing, but the basic aspects of the media expression of civil society.
We at Mattlumine and I in particular are great supporters of the Internet, its freedom of expression, its broad democracy.
But as in every other area of the life of each of us, democracy, as well as meritocracy always end up having to deal with the economy.
And we all know how the economy is a big problem these days.
The economy influences and moves the balances, so it happens that the law must intervene to bring the balance within a range that is sustainable for all players in the field.
This is what is happening with the new copyright law, under discussion in the European Parliament these days.
Because of the enormous dissemination of information conveyed on the internet, we know that today the entire publishing sector has fallen into a deep crisis.
To try to cope with this situation, the European Union is trying to find a framework for a law that protects publishers, trying to help them raise revenues from the world of the web at the expense of large online platforms.
What does this law say? Many things, but two are the articles that are polarizing the opinions, 11 and 13.
This is the article 11:
Protection of journalistic publications in case of digital use
1.Member States shall recognize to the publishers of newspapers the rights referred to in Article 2 and Article 3 (2) of Directive 2001/29 / EC for the digital use of their journalistic publications.
2.The rights referred to in paragraph 1 shall not modify and in no way affect those provided for by the law of the Union for authors and other rights holders in respect of works and other material included in a journalistic publication. They can not be invoked against such authors and other rights holders and, in particular, can not deprive them of the right to exploit their works and other material independently of the journalistic publication in which they are included.
3. Articles 5 to 8 of Directive 2001/29 / EC and Directive 2012/28 / EU shall apply mutatis mutandis to the rights referred to in paragraph 1.
4.The rights referred to in paragraph 1 expire 20 years after the publication of the journalistic publication. This deadline is calculated from 1 January of the year following the date of publication.
And this is the 13th:
Use of protected content by information society service providers who store and access large quantities of works and other material uploaded by users
1.Information service providers who store and give public access to large quantities of works or other material uploaded by users shall take measures in cooperation with the rights holders to ensure the functioning of the agreements concluded with them the use of their works or other material or aimed at preventing certain works or other material identified by the rights holders through collaboration with the same service providers being made available on their services. Such measures, such as the use of effective content recognition technologies, are adequate and proportionate. Service providers provide rights holders with appropriate information on the operation and activation of the measures and, where appropriate, adequately report on the recognition and use of the works and other material.
2.Member States shall ensure that service providers referred to in paragraph 1 establish complaints and redress mechanisms to be made available to users in the event of disputes concerning the application of the measures referred to in paragraph 1.
3. Member States shall facilitate, where appropriate, collaboration between information society service providers and right holders through dialogues between stakeholders, in order to define best practices, for example the use of adequate and proportionate for the recognition of content, taking into account inter alia the nature of services, the availability of technologies and their effectiveness in the light of technological developments.
“large platforms” must pay copyright if they publish content covered by this right.
For example, Google should pay the rights to the content that you see in the search page feed, ie for the title and description.
Platforms like Facebook should be equipped with a control system for publications so that no copyrighted content can be published without the rights being paid.
Ok, now that we have simplified everything, let’s see the critical issues that are created and the strengths that there are anyway.
First of all, it is not difficult to imagine the chaotic scenario that could arise if the law were to be approved with this text next January. At the same time nobody can determine it with absolute certainty, because the power games now in progress will substantially remain.
In fact, today publishers, like us, complain that nobody pays for the contents that are produced and that advertising is not enough to support costs in the least; so it would be normal to ask that the contents published online be remunerated, on the other side there are the big players that index our contents and consequently they say that they are already supporting our cause.
In short, the main criticism of this law comes from the fact that, if it was made to support the editors, it could have the opposite effect, completely sinking the system. Small publishers are able to generate visits to their sites by indexing themeself on Google and other search engines, but if Google does not agree to pay for content and remove from its indexing feed the content for which it should pay , almost all the newspapers would no longer be visible in the search pages, with obvious total drop in visits.
Another critical issue arises in the discretion that every European country will have on the interpretation of the law. In fact, the first text of the law which provided for a single interpretation for all countries was not welcomed and today the text provides that an organ of each state is involved in interpreting the law.
Thus, the idea is that some states may leave the free choice to publishers to make the platforms pay for their contents or not. A substantial: you decide whether to be indexed or paid.
The classic dog that bites its own tail.
The other big issue is that concerning the uploading of content by users.
The example to be considered, as the most evolved method currently existing, is the YouTube ID. A very complex algorithm, for which they have invested millions of euro, which is able to understand if the video that loads a user contains or not copyrighted audio or video.
Essentially, Europe asks every platform that allows users to upload content to equip themselves with a similar system.
Here too there are some critical issues, two in particular.
The first one is always about market players who are not big enough to sustain such a cost, so even in this case it would end up benefiting the big platforms that could sustain the cost.
In secundis, the question arises that such a filtering system could end up being used as a system of censorship and in any case limit the freedom of expression that underlies the Internet.
In fact both Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, and Tim Berners-Lee, literally the inventor of the World Wide Web, have already shown themselves against this law, in particular for this reason.
In addition to the critical issues related to individual articles, there are general ones. For example, inaccurate information, such as the definition “large platforms”, which lends itself to any kind of interpretation, because even a cloud hosting service is a great file sharing platform, just to be clear.
And then the fact of country-by-country interpretation scares me a lot. Because I already imagine countries like Holland where freedom of expression will certainly be guaranteed and others (which I leave you to imagine) where the instrument will be used to show us only happy and religious families …
Done all the criticism of the case, now we must also mention the pro.
First of all, the desire to safeguard publishing, a sector that has never been just an economic asset of a state, but an instrument of vital importance for the creation of a public opinion that has among its cornerstones the freedom of expression, should be mentioned of everyone and therefore the balance of democracy.
That said, the attempt still seems a bit clumsy.
In principle, despite all the criticisms I have made, I am in favor of a proposal to safeguard publishing, which is too often used for purposes not related to the nutrition of consciences.
I believe, however, that as always, power is in the hands of the people, as well as the responsibility of the failures of such great scope, as is that of current publishing.
For example, we always complain about tax evasion, the drug that circulates in our cities, but many of us still do not use the credit cards to make purchases. You can see it from the (non-existent) rows of people to the automatic cash machines of large shopping centers or motorway toll booths.
It would be enough to eliminate the cash to solve almost all these problems.
Try to ask the drug pusher if he has the pos terminal.
So, let’s say the truth, the truth is that you do not want advertising on the internet, but you do not even want to pay for content, we get angry with Facebook if it sells data, but we do not want to pay a cent to use it.
In the same way we do not want to pay a euro for an online newspaper, because the news is free from somewhere, regardless of the fact that the writer in the online journal has studied, is a professional and what he says on the subject has a objective validity.
Here, in reality, another criticality of the law is opened, raised by several colleagues. In essence, if the payment system for the rights will be at the discretion of the individual publisher, there could be an even worse fall in quality of the contents that are found online today.
How? In this way: if a publisher creates quality content, pays experts to create them, he claims that the platforms pay the rights on its contents.
On the contrary, one who writes fake news or just wants to be destabilizing, will avoid being paid and therefore its contents will be exposed with greater force, thus leading the network to be a set of fake news, approximate news etc …
This is the worst scenario, of course, but let’s say that without waiting for states to come to make laws, with the usual monstrous delay, we begin to make the difference by paying for what we receive.