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European Union Passes Sweeping Copyright Rules

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  • The European Parliament passed the European Union Copyright Directive on Tuesday, giving member states two years to implement the law before it goes into effect.
  • The directive included the highly contentious Article 13, also called the “upload filter,” which will require media platforms to be liable for copyright infringements committed by their users.
  • Tech companies that lobbied against the bill have condemned its passage, while others in the music, publishing, and film industries have applauded the new law.

European Parliament Passes EUCD

The European Parliament gave the final approval to the sweeping copyright reform known as the European Union Copyright Directive (EUCD) on Tuesday, sparking backlash from large tech companies that have repeatedly lobbied against the bill.

The decision comes after the final version of the directive was approved by the different branches of the EU in February, and a final vote was set for European Parliament for the following month.

The decision on Tuesday came as members of the European Parliament voted 348 in favor of the directive and 274 against. A last-minute proposal to remove the controversial Article 13, also called the “upload filter” was rejected by only five votes.

The EUCD will now be passed on to EU member states, who will have two years to implement the law in their countries.

Member states do get to decide the details of the legislation individually, but the law will still probably have a huge impact on how the internet works in Europe.

The most contentious provisions from the drafts of the directive, Articles 11 and 13, still remain in the final version of the bill, though Article 13 has been renamed Article 17.

Article 11 & Article 13

Article 11, also called the “link tax,” mandates that links to web pages and articles can only be posted or shared on other platforms with a license.

While there are some exceptions, Article 11 will massively hurt news aggregators like Google News, because it will let publishers charge them when they display snippets of news stories.

Google has said that if publishers do decide to charge licenses for their material, they will be forced to scale down the content they show on Google News and potentially shut it down altogether.

While Article 11 has received a lot of criticism, the real heavy hitter is Article 13, now Article 17, which has also been the “upload filter.”

Article 13 requires platforms like YouTube to be responsible for copyright infringements committed by their users. The language in the law is vague, but many think that it will force these platforms to monitor and block copyrighted content from being uploaded, or else they will be liable.

People have argued that this provision could lead to automated “upload filters”–  hence the nickname. These filters would scan all user content before it’s uploaded to remove copyrighted material.

The law does not explicitly require automated filters, but many think that they are inevitable. There is so much content being uploaded to YouTube every second, which essentially makes it impossible for companies to manually sort through every video to make sure it does not violate copyright laws.

To make matters worse, experts have said that these filters are not ready for the market, and are likely to be error-prone or ineffective. They have also said that the technology is expensive.

While large tech companies like Facebook and YouTube could afford that technology, it would create a barrier for smaller companies who want to enter the market, because they would not be able to afford that kind of technology.

This, in turn, would further solidify big tech companies market dominance.

Which is especially ironic, because advocates of the directive have argued that it will balance the playing field between big U.S. tech companies and smaller European content creators by giving copyright holders more power in how their content is distributed.

Responses

The argument that smaller content creators will have more power under the EUCD is one that has been reiterated by its supporters over and over again. Despite the predominantly negative reaction to the passage of EUCD, groups from the music, publishing, and film industries have applauded the passage of the law.

“This is a vote against content theft.” Xavier Bouckaert the President of European Magazine Media Association said, “Publishers of all sizes and other creators will now have the right to set terms and conditions for others to re-use their content commercially, as is only fair and appropriate.”

Helen Smith, the head of the Independent Music Companies Association, called the move “A landmark day for Europe’s creators and citizens, and a significant step towards a fairer internet.”

“Platforms facilitate a unique relationship between artists and fans, and this will be given a boost as a result of this directive. It will have a ripple effect world wide,” Smith said.

On the other side, critics of the directive argue that it is vague and will end up censoring online content, hurt free speech and stifle innovation.

In response to the bill’s passage, YouTube thanked the creators who spoke out against Article 13 in a tweet.

A spokesperson for Google made a similar point, stating:

“The Copyright Directive is improved, but will still lead to legal uncertainty and will hurt Europe’s creative and digital economies […] The details matter, and we look forward to working with policy makers, publishers, creators, and rights holders as EU member states move to implement these new rules.”

International Spillover

With the passage of the law, many people in the U.S. are wondering if the directive will affect them.

While no one is entirely sure exactly how the law will affect people outside of the EU, there is a precedent for EU data protection laws influencing U.S. policy. Back in 2016, the EU passed the General Data Protection Regulation (GDRP), which set new rules for how companies manage and share personal data.

Theoretically, the GDPR would only apply to data belonging to EU citizens, but because the internet is a global commodity, nearly every online service was affected when the law was fully implemented last year.

The GDPR mandated that companies get consent before obtaining personal data, and it explicitly extended to companies outside the EU. It also imposed stricter penalties on companies for violating data privacy.

Those regulations in turn resulted in significant changes for U.S. users and forced U.S. companies to adapt. In response, companies like Google and Slack moved quickly to update their terms and contracts, and roll out new personal data tools.

The effect of the regulations have already taken a toll on U.S. tech companies.

In January, a French data protection authority announced that it fined Google $57 million for not properly disclosing how user data is collected for personalized advertisements across its services, including Google Maps and YouTube.

However, as of now, it is unclear if the EUCD will be as far-reaching as the GDRP.

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Fortune) (Venture Beat)

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Angled Toilet Designed to Shorten Employees’ Bathroom Breaks Met With Criticism

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  • A British company, StandardToilet, has filed a patent for a toilet fixture designed with a downward-sloping seat. 
  • The product is meant to be uncomfortable to sit on for more than five minutes, in an effort to reduce bathroom breaks and increase employee productivity.
  • StandardToilet also says their product will reduce bathroom lines in public spaces and serve better for people’s health.
  • The company’s idea has been supported by some, but largely slammed by others who claim it promotes an unhealthy expectation of workplace productivity and is inconsiderate to a range of users with differing needs.

A New Type of Toilet

A British startup has developed a toilet designed to be uncomfortable to sit on for longer than five minutes in an effort to increase workplace productivity.

StandardToilet has filed a patent for a toilet fixture with a seating surface sloped forward between 11-13 degrees. The company claims that this design will decrease the time that employees spend taking bathroom breaks, thus allowing them to devote more minutes to work. 

“In modern times, the workplace toilet has become private texting and social media usage space,” StandardToilet says on their website.  

The company estimates that about £16 billion ($20.8 billion) are lost annually to the time that people are spending using the bathroom at work in the U.K. They claim that reducing time spent sitting on the toilet will save about £4 billion of that sum. 

Mahabir Gill, the founder of StandardToilet, told Wired that sitting on the angled fixture for more than five minutes will cause strain on the legs, but “not enough to cause health issues.”

“Anything higher than that would cause wider problems,” Gill said. “Thirteen degrees is not too inconvenient, but you’d soon want to get off the seat quite quickly.”   

StandardToilet says that in addition to increasing employee productivity, their design will shorten bathroom lines in public places such as shopping malls and train stations.

They also claim studies have suggested that flat-surfaced toilets used now can cause medical issues, like swollen haemorrhoids and weakening of pelvic muscles. The company says its product can reduce musculoskeletal disorder “through promoting the engagement of upper leg muscles.”

Response to StandardToilet

While news of the proposed time-saving toilet has been supported by some, like the British Toilet Association (BTA), an organization that campaigns for better toilet facilities, it was also largely met with criticism. Jennifer Kaufmann-Buhler, an assistant professor of design history at Purdue University in Indiana, expressed that the idea is a bit controlling. 

“In an office, the one space you have where you can find privacy is often the toilet,” Kaufmann-Buhler told Wired. “So, god forbid that we want to make the one place where workers should have at least some autonomy – the toilet – another place where people impose the very capitalist idea that people should always be working.”

Kaufmann-Buhler’s sentiment was echoed across Twitter, where people were upset by StandardToilet’s motive.

Others pointed out the discomfort StandardToilet’s design would bring to those with physical disabilities.

The company told HuffPost in an email that the product isn’t designed to take the place of toilets for people with disabilities. StandardToilet’s website also notes that another benefit of the slanted toilet is “reduction in overspill usage of disabled facilities.” 

Nadine Vogel is the CEO of Springboard Consulting, a company that works with other businesses on how to serve workers with disabilities. She noted to HuffPost that there are other kinds of hindrances that might justify more time in the bathroom.

Vogel brought up examples of diabetic people testing their glucose levels or others simply needing a break for their mental health.

 “The fact that the concern is extended employee breaks ― well, what about people that have some kind of mental health situation that actually need that kind of longer break?” Vogel said.

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (Guardian) (Wired)

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Pinkwashing: The Dark Side of the Breast Cancer Awareness Industry Explained…

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Chances are you’ve seen a handful of breast cancer awareness campaigns throughout the years from the pink ribbon slapped on NFL footballs to your favorite yogurt brand changing their packing to pink every October, which is breast cancer awareness month. But did you know that there are many pink ribbon products that contain chemicals linked to cancer? 

Breast cancer activists call this phenomenon pinkwashing and it’s been happening for years. Whether it be a carcinogenic chemical found in pink ribbon perfume to pink ribbons found on alcohol, a known risk factor for breast cancer, pinkwashing touches many industries. In this deep dive, we’re going to look at why companies want to pinkwash and why it has changed how people around the world participate in breast cancer awareness campaigns. 

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Pinterest, The Knot, and Brides Will No Longer Promote Plantation Weddings

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  • Pinterest and The Knot, popular sites used for wedding planning, agreed to stop promoting content and venues that romanticize slave plantations. 
  • The decision was made after the civil rights advocacy group Color of Change penned a letter to the companies explaining the pain and insensitivity behind glamorizing properties once used to brutalize people. 
  • Brides magazine has since also agreed to enact a similar policy, though sites like Zola said promoting such content does not violate their discrimination policy.

Criticism of Plantation Weddings 

Two of the biggest internet platforms used for wedding content and planning, Pinterest and The Knot, are changing their policies to stop promoting any wedding content that romanticizes slave plantations. 

Plantation weddings have become very common in the wedding industry, however, they are often criticized for glorifying sites that were once used to enslave and brutalize millions of black people. 

Celebrities like Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds still face criticism for hosting their 2012 wedding at Boone Hall Plantation in South Carolina. In addition to being a popular wedding venue, the property also offers history tours of its original slave cabins.

Other venues have been blasted for using decorative language that critics say minimizes the painful history of the locations. For instance, some properties have been described as “breathtaking” scenes with an “elaborate past,” or were said to have “a touch of southern charm.”

Policy Changes 

The decision to implement policy changes comes at the urging of the civil rights advocacy group Color of Change. The group sent letters to Pinterest and the Knot Worldwide, which owns The Knot and Wedding Wire, asking the companies to stop promoting plantations altogether. 

“The decision to glorify plantations as nostalgic sites of celebration is not an empowering one for the Black women and justice-minded people who use your site,” the letter, reviewed by Buzzfeed News, read. 

“Plantations are physical reminders of one of the most horrific human rights abuses the world has ever seen,” the letter continued. “The wedding industry routinely denies the violent conditions Black people faced under chattel slavery by promoting plantations as romantic places to marry.”

Pinterest responded to the letter with their own announcement, saying, “Weddings should be a symbol of love and unity. Plantations represent none of those things. We are grateful to Color of Change for bringing attention to this disrespectful practice. We are working to limit the distribution of this content and accounts across our platform, and continue to not accept advertisements for them.”

Pinterest has already started moderating and limiting plantation wedding content on its platform that appeared in search recommendations and notifications. It is also working to de-index Google searches for plantation weddings that direct to their site. 

Users call still search “plantation weddings” and similar terms on the site but they will be warned that some of the results may violate the site’s policies.

Source: Pinterest

Meanwhile, the Knot said it was working with Color of Change to prohibit vendors on its sites “from using language that romanticizes or glorifies a history that includes slavery.” Vendors who do not follow that rule will be removed, the company said.

“Color of Change brought an issue to light about the way venues with a history of slavery describe their properties to couples,” the Knot said in a statement. “We’re grateful to Color of Change for bringing this issue to us and for partnering with us to help educate our vendors on how to respectfully market their businesses to all couples.”

The Knot clarified that plantations will still be able to list themselves as venues. Their new guidelines are simply designed to ensure that vendors aren’t using language such as “elegant” or “charming” when referencing history that includes slavery. 

The language policy will apply to all venues listed on the Knot, not just ones that market themselves as plantations. A representative from the Knot told Buzzfeed New,  “You can imagine there could be former plantations that maybe have changed their names to manors or farms.”

The Knot’s new guidelines are expected to be officially released in the next few weeks as they continue to comb through the current vendors listed on their site. 

Color of Change Reached Out to Other Wedding Content Giants 

Along with the Knot and Pinterest, Color of Change also sent letters to Zola, Martha Stewart Weddings, and Brides. The group said they specifically called on these platforms to make a change because millions of couples turn to them for not only wedding inspiration but also information about potential vendors. 

Color of Change also argued that because these wedding planning platforms don’t profit directly from weddings themselves, they might be more motivated to hear their concerns. 

A spokesperson for Color of Change called Pinterest and the Knot’s efforts an “extremely massive step.” Following the news of two platform’s changes, the spokesperson added that Brides also reached out and requested a meeting.

Brides later issued a statement to Bustle saying, “Brides is an inclusive place where everyone can feel celebrated. Content glorifying plantations is not in line with our core values. We have removed these references and are actively working with Color of Change to evolve our guidelines to help ensure all our couples are supported, respected and inspired.”

As for the other platforms, in a statement to BuzzFeed News, Emily Forrest, a communications manager for Zola responded with: “After reviewing this complaint we determined it did not violate our non-discrimination policy. While we may not always agree with couples on all of their wedding details, we also respect their right to choose where and how they want to get married.”

As of now, Martha Stewart Weddings has not responded to the letter. 

See what others are saying: (Buzzfeed News) (The Washington Post) (Bustle)  

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