After the mass adoption of the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) near the end of May 2018, another debate started to heat up surrounding a new copyright reform in the EU known as Article 13. This proposal was basically a dead piece of paper sitting in a Brussels office since the autumn of 2016 until MEP Axel Voss started pushing it more recently, ignoring all of the advice against the move.
The continued pursual of this legislation has even alarmed copyright holders themselves, whom the proposal purportedly benefits. Soon after, panic set in as people said that this legislation would “destroy the I nternet.” This looks like something that needs to be clarified.
What’s Article 13?
Article 13, known officially as the European Commission Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on Copyright in The Digital Single Market, is a proposal that wishes to address some of the shortcomings of current copyright law as far as the Internet is concerned.
The members of European Parliament that are pushing this measure forward believe that it’s time for the EU to get into the Internet age, and the one way to do this is through bringing Eurocratic governance to the infrastructure that provides Internet services to people, requiring ISPs to install specialized hardware with advanced computational algorithms that detect and filter any copyrighted content that people share on the web.
This is somewhat similar to China’s great firewall, which filters the information that reaches the mainland from websites that the central government does not approve of. This is not an exaggeration, as even member states such as Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, and the Netherlands have raised questions about the proposal’s possible infringement against the EU’s Charter of Human Rights.
The basic idea of the legislation is to allow copyright holders to get paid for their work, requiring content providers to monitor their users for any potential infringements and making them tell infringing users to get a license prior to uploading their content. This also ventures into the realm of sharing this content online via social media.
Enforcing these measures would require a complete overhaul of the entire infrastructure of Europe’s Internet.
Is It Destroying the Internet?
By definition, you can’t simply just “destroy” the Internet. If the measure passes, it wouldn’t be the end of the world, but the Internet as you know it in Europe would be much more difficult to maintain. We would certainly see some ISPs acquired by larger competitors and a large amount of consolidation around companies that can adapt to the legislation.
From the consumer’s perspective, we have the word of the European Consumer Organization (BEUC) which says that “the [proposal] does not address […] consumer concerns as it fails to provide a balanced copyright system where all different actors involved could benefit from it fairly.”
That said, Article 13 would be the most ambitious legislative agenda from the EU on the Internet, beating the GDPR that entered into effect on May 25, 2018.
What If It Passes?
If you live outside the European Union, there’s not much you should do. ISPs will continue to behave the same way they do right now.
However, if you’re a resident of the EU, you’ll have to start working on your privacy game. Even if the law doesn’t pass, it’s always good to familiarize yourself with Tor and learn to browse the internet in a truly incognito fashion. If you’re a more advanced user, you could configure your own Tor proxy pathways using AdvOR, which we spoke about here in our article about onion routing.
This would essentially encrypt your connection so that your content wouldn’t be filtered, giving you more freedom. With AdvOR, you could even “hook” it to other applications and force them to use the Tor network even if they don’t allow it. In addition to this, you could specifically select nodes from countries outside the EU (such as the United States) to relay your data through. There are, so far, no legal provisions in the European Union against circumventing your ISP in this fashion.
Do you think that the panic behind Article 13 is justified? Or do you believe that it’s all a bunch of fuss for nothing? Tell us what you think in a comment!