- 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.
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.”
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)
Company Apologizes After Shaming Job Applicant for Bikini Photo
- After applying to a marketing position at a startup, a 24-year-old woman discovered that the business posted a photo of her in a bikini to its Instagram story.
- Without naming the woman in the photo, the company added captions calling her unprofessional and urging other applicants to “not share your social media with a potential employer if this is the kind of content on it,” even though the woman said the company, Kickass Masterminds, had requested she follow them on Instagram.
- The woman, Emily Clow, asked for the story to be taken down multiple times, but it did not disappear until after the story expired.
- On Monday, Kickass Mastermind’s CEO issued a public apology following backlash.
Potential Employer Posts Woman’s Bikini Photo to Instagram
An Austin-based startup apologized to one of its applicants after shaming her on its Instagram story for having a bikini photo on her profile.
The incident occurred after 24-year-old Emily Clow applied to an open marketing position at the business — Kickass Masterminds. Clow said she had been eager to grow her social media and sales experience.
When she heard back from Kickass Masterminds, she said she was asked to fill out additional application forms and to follow the company’s official Instagram account.
Later, Clow noticed Kickass Masterminds had posted a cropped photo of her in a bikini to its Instagram story, removing Clow’s face likely to mask her identity.
“PSA (because I know some of you applicants are looking at this): do not share your social media with a potential employer if this is the kind of content on it,” the photo’s caption read. “I am looking for a professional marketer – not a bikini model.”
“Go on with your bad self and do whatever in private,” the message continued. “But this is not doing you any favors in finding a professional job.”
Clow then messaged the company privately about the photo, warning them that she had screenshotted the post. She then added, in a seemingly sarcastic tone, “I appreciate your advice.”
“Remember that everything that you put on social is public and future potential employers will see it,” Kickass Masterminds then replied. “Best of luck in your job search!”
Clow then said she did not interpret her photo in her bikini as inappropriate and criticized the company for posting her photo to its account.
“I am aware of that, as I worked with social media for two years,” she said. “I didn’t realize wearing a bathing suit and appreciating my body made me an unprofessional. MOST employers and companies, especially those who work with marketing, have that understanding. I am disappointed to see a company I was very interested in decided to go out of their way to shame an applicant.”
She then continued by asking Kickass Masterminds to take down the story for the second time, having previously emailed the company to remove it. Clow asked for a third time after Kickass Masterminds only responded with “best of luck” in her job search.
Instead of removing the post, the company reportedly allowed it to appear until the story expired.
Also following that exchange, Clow said the company blocked her, so she took to Twitter. In a post, she said she felt “objectified” and that she was “baffled that the company handled it in such a manner.”
Later, she shared a photo of the company’s bio from its LinkedIn page, saying, “This is fucking hilarious considering.”
In the bio, Kickass Masterminds stated that it works with “rebellious business owners,” specifically those who are “rebelling from the traditional way of earning a living because they’ve lost faith in corporate America.”
It then goes on to say it works with business owners who “want other like-minded people to have their back when shit gets tough in their quest for personal and money freedom.”
this is fucking hilarious, considering pic.twitter.com/dmjABdm4s3— Emily Clow (@emilyeclow) October 1, 2019
Clow’s Post Goes Viral
Soon after, her post went viral and was met with a wave of support online.
“So they’re all about freedom and calling your own shots except when it comes to your self expression with your own body in a way that in no way affects your job performance?” one user wrote. “Such freedom.”
So they’re all about freedom and calling your own shots except when it comes to your self expression with your own body in a way that in no way affects your job performance? Such freedom.— Danielle Dubill (@buffalodani85) October 2, 2019
Others then shared a photo reportedly from Kickass Mastermind’s Instagram, which showed the company CEO, Sara Christensen posing while holding up her middle finger. Others then pointed to a photo of Christensen in her bra that was posted to her personal Instagram in 2017. Many users then asked how either photo was more professional than Clow’s.
On the other side of the argument, some still criticized Kickass Masterminds for posting the photo while also arguing that the original photo is still unprofessional.
“What the hell, of course it’s unprofessional. Women need to help other women learn how to be taken seriously. At some point maybe you will see that. The way she did it probably lacked, but the message is correct. Maintain some privacy, be aware of the [image] you put out there.”
Kickass Masterminds Apologizes
Christensen remained silent on the situation until Monday when she posted an apology to Medium.
“In a very human moment,” she began, “I made an error in judgment by posting to my Instagram stories about a job applicant’s online persona. To anyone watching: I am a great case study in what NOT to do. To Ms. Clow: I apologize for my behavior. I intended you no harm. I should never have made that post.”
“To those I serve through my business and who have trusted my counsel,” she continued. “Many of you have been affected by this very avoidable event. There are no words to describe how sorry I am that you have felt the consequences of my poor decision. You deserve better and I’ve let you down. I will do my best to earn back your trust.”
She then said she had learned her lesson but also said that she is not ready to publicly talk about it.
Kickass Masterminds has now set its Instagram to private, and the company’s Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn pages were taken down.
Meanwhile, Clow has somewhat accepted her new title. On her Instagram profile, she now describes herself as “an unprofessional bikini model.”
See what others are saying: (Yahoo) (NBC News) (Buzzfeed News)
Houston Rockets GM’s Pro-Hong Kong Tweet Sparks Controversy
- Houston Rockets’ General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of Hong Kong protesters, which upset Chinese fans.
- The NBA is a major business in China, prompting leaders in the NBA to address the situation and apologize for any offense the tweet, which Morey soon deleted, may have caused.
- The damage of the tweet was already done, however. The Chinese Government, Chinese Basketball Association, China-based sponsors for the team, and a platform that streams NBA games to 500 million Chinese viewers cut ties with the Rockets.
- U.S. politicians are criticizing China for exercising its economic hold on the NBA. They are also upset that the NBA is catering to this hold, instead of showing support for pro-democracy protests.
Morey’s Tweet Stirs Controversy
The NBA is receiving bipartisan backlash from American politicians after apologizing for a tweet in support of Hong Kong’s protesters sent by the Houston Rockets’ General Manager.
While in Japan for pre-season games on Friday, GM Daryl Morey expressed support for the ongoing pro-Democracy protests in Hong Kong. He tweeted a photo that said, “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.”
His tweet received backlash before he quickly deleted it, as China—which has condemned these protests in an effort to expand their influence over the city-state—did not like its message. The NBA has a lot of money to make in China, the Houston Rockets in particular.
Yao Ming, one of the most popular Chinese basketball stars, played on the Rockets. His tenure on the team helped make the game as popular as it is in China today and cemented the Rockets as a fan favorite in the country. He is retired from the sport and is now currently the President of the Chinese Basketball Association.
The team’s leaders and the NBA quickly moved to the damage control front after Morey deleted the tweet. The Rockets’ owner, Tilman Fertitta, sent a tweet noting that Morey’s tweet was a reflection of his personal beliefs and not any political beliefs of the team itself.
Morey posted a series of tweets on his own addressing the situation. He said he did not intend to offend fans in China.
“I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives,” he added.
The NBA took a similar approach in their statement and also worked to downplay Morey’s remarks.
“While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league support individuals’ educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them,” the statement read. “We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the N.B.A. can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.”
China Reacts to Tweet
Their efforts, however, could not stop the impact the tweet already had on China. The Chinese government cut ties with the Houston Rockets, as did several businesses, including the team’s Chinese sponsors. The CBA, along with Tencent, which streams NBA games in China to almost 500 million viewers cut their ties as well.
The owner of the Brooklyn Nets, Joe Tsai, who also co-founded Chinese media company Alibaba also condemned the remarks in a statement.
“I don’t know Daryl personally. I am sure he’s a fine NBA general manager, and I will take at face value his subsequent apology that he was not as well informed as he should have been,” he said. “But the hurt that this incident has caused will take a long time to repair.”
On top of this, a report from The Ringer alleges that Houston Rockets and NBA ownership is debating whether or not to replace Morey as the team’s GM.
This series of events has also stirred up its own controversy among American politicians, who are criticizing the NBA on both sides of the aisle. Democrats and Republicans alike are upset that China has an economic hold on the NBA, and that the NBA is catering to that hold. Many would rather have seen the organization support the sentiment behind Morey’s original tweet instead of China, which has been largely seen as suppressing the pro-democracy protests.
Presidential candidate Julian Castro said that “China is using its economic power to silence critics—even those in the U.S..
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called the situation “Unacceptable.”
Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) accused the NBA of “kowtowing” to China. He also called out Adam Silver, the NBA’s commissioner, to criticize the organization’s response.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called the NBA’s retreat shameful.
Silver will be in China this week as various teams play preseason games. He is expected to speak during his trip and touch on the matter.
See what others are saying: (The Ringer) (Axios) (NPR)
EU Rules Facebook Can Be Forced to Remove Content Worldwide
- The EU’s highest court has ruled that if one EU-member country decides content posted on Facebook is illegal, Facebook can be forced to remove specific content worldwide.
- Facebook and other critics argued the rule will violate freedom of expression laws in other countries because removing content that one country deems illegal might be protected as free speech in another country.
- Some critics also claimed the rule will allow authoritarian leaders to justify censorship and stifling political dissent.
European Court of Justice Ruling
The European Union’s highest court ruled Thursday that Facebook can be ordered to remove specific content worldwide if one EU-member country finds it illegal.
In a statement, the European Court of Justice said that if the national court of one EU country decides a post on Facebook is illegal, Facebook will be required to remove all duplicates of that post: not just in that EU country, but everywhere in the world.
The ruling also says that in some cases, even posts that are similar to the post deemed illegal will also have to be removed.
The ECJ made the decision after Austrian politician Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek sued Facebook in Austrian courts demanding that the company remove a defamatory comment someone posted about her, as well as any “equivalent” comments disparaging her.
Reportedly, the post in question was made by a Facebook user why shared a link to a news article that called Glawischnig-Piesczek a “lousy traitor of the people,” a “corrupt oaf” and member of a “fascist party.”
Facebook at first had refused to remove the post, which in many countries would still be considered acceptable political speech. However, Austrian courts ruled that the post was intended to hurt her reputation, and the Austrian Supreme Court referred the case to the ECJ.
In the ECJ statement, the highest court did clarify that Facebook and other social media companies are not liable for illegal content posted on their platforms as long as they did not know it was illegal or removed it quickly.
Regardless, the ruling still comes as a massive blow and a huge change for Facebook and places much more responsibility on the tech giant to control its content.
It should not come as a surprise that Facebook is not happy with the decision.
Before the high court’s decision, Facebook and others critical of the rule argued that allowing one country to force a platform to remove material globally limits free speech. Facebook also argued that the decision would most likely force them to use automated content filters.
Some activists have claimed automated filters could cause legitimate posts to be taken down because the filters can not necessarily tell if a post is ironic or satirical or a meme—a problem most grandparents also seem to have on Facebook.
Facebook condemned the ECJ ruling in a statement, where it argued that internet companies should not be responsible for monitoring and removing speech that might be illegal in one specific country.
“It undermines the long-standing principle that one country does not have the right to impose its laws on speech on another country,” the statement said. “It also opens the door to obligations being imposed on internet companies to proactively monitor content and then interpret if it is ‘equivalent’ to content that has been found to be illegal.”
“In order to get this right national courts will have to set out very clear definitions on what ‘identical’ and ‘equivalent’ means in practice,” Facebook continued. “We hope the courts take a proportionate and measured approach, to avoid having a chilling effect on freedom of expression.”
Free Speech Debate
Facebook’s statement has also been echoed by some experts in the field, like Thomas Hughes, the executive director of the UK rights group Article 19, who told Reuters that the decision of one country to remove content illegal in its borders could lead to the removal of content that should be protected as free speech in another country.
“Compelling social media platforms like Facebook to automatically remove posts regardless of their context will infringe our right to free speech and restrict the information we see online,” Hughes said.
“This would set a dangerous precedent where the courts of one country can control what internet users in another country can see. This could be open to abuse, particularly by regimes with weak human rights records.”
Touching on that point, Eline Chivot, an analyst at the Center for Data Innovation told the Financial Times that the ruling could open a “Pandora’s box” whereby the global removal of content deemed illegal in one country could give authoritarian governments and dictators more tools for censorship.
“Expanding content bans worldwide will undermine internet users’ right to access information and freedom of expression in other countries,” she said. “This precedent will embolden other countries, including those with little respect for free speech, to make similar demands.”
EU’s Role in Tech Company Regulation
Ben Wagner, the director of the Privacy and Sustainable Computing Lab at Vienna University, also argued that decision brings up concerns about restricting political speech.
“We’re talking about a politician who is being insulted in a political context, that’s very different than a normal citizen,” he told The New York Times. “There needs to be a greater scope for freedom of opinion and expression.”
The possibility of stifling political speech is a common debate regarding the regulation of content on social media.
On Wednesday, Singapore enacted a “fake news” law that will basically let the government decide what is and is not fake news on social media, leading many to believe the law is simply a tool to limit free speech and suppress political dissent.
Discussions about the regulation of political speech are especially pertinent right now.
Just last week, Facebook announced that posts by politicians will be exempt from the platform’s rules and that they will not remove or label posts by politicians, even if they are disparaging or contains false information.
Now it seems like that will change.
It is also interesting because it speaks to a broader issue of global enforcement for these kinds of rules. As many have pointed out, the EU has increasingly set the standard for tougher regulation of social media and tech companies.
But creating consistent standards for enforcement and oversight has been challenging, especially when attempting to enforce a rule globally.
At the end of September, the ECJ decided to limit the reach of a privacy law called “the right to be forgotten,” which lets European citizens request that personal data be removed from Google’s search results.
The ECJ decided that Google could not be required to remove the links globally, but just in EU-member states.
Before that decision, Google also claimed the law could be abused by authoritarian governments trying to cover up human rights abuses.
Facebook, however, should not expect the court’s rule to change, as the ECJ court’s decision cannot be appealed.