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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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Facebook to Launch Its Own Cryptocurrency Called Libra in 2020

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  • Facebook announced its plan for a new cryptocurrency called Libra on Tuesday, explaining in detail why it will be different from other cryptocurrencies.
  • The social media giant not only helped fund the technology, but also created an independent company that will act as the wallet for Libra.
  • With Facebook’s recent privacy and security issues, people are concerned about trusting the company with their financial information.  

Facebook Announces Libra

Facebook announced on Tuesday its plan to launch a new cryptocurrency called Libra, hoping to create what they call “the internet of money”, despite high public distrust in the company over privacy and security issues.  

Libra, the statement explains, is expected to launch in 2020 and will be built on three main aspects. The first being a secure and reliable blockchain, which is the system that keeps track of cryptocurrency transactions. The blockchain used for Libra “was built from the group up,” the announcement states.

The company said it did this “to prioritize scalability, security, efficiency in storage and throughput, and future adaptability.”

The second main component of Libra focuses on the cryptocurrency being backed by a reserve of assets. This is what Libra says sets it apart from other cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, which are known for their volatility. With Libra being backed by stable assets actually worth value, it would be a more stable cryptocurrency. However like other cryptocurrencies, Libra is still likely to be affected by some fluctuations when converted to currencies like dollars.

As for the final aspect, the company says it will be governed by an independent group called the Libra Association. The group’s main purpose is to essentially be the administrator of the Libra network and make sure the network is available to other companies that want to take part. The 28 Founding Members, as they’re called, come from a variety of backgrounds and companies. In addition to Facebook, the group includes businesses like Mastercard, eBay, Lyft, Spotify AB, as well as non-profits like Mercy Corps. The members helped fund the reserves that back Libra and hope to have 100 members covering a wide range of organizations as well as academic institutions.

“It’s decentralized,” Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook when announcing Libra. “Meaning it’s run by many different organizations instead of just one, making the system fairer overall. It’s available to anyone with an internet connection and has low fees and costs.”

Facebook has said once Libra is launched, the company will no longer have authority and will be considered an equal member to the other organizations in the association.

Facebook’s Role

In addition to Facebook’s help funding the technology that makes Libra possible, it also created an independent subsidiary company, Calibra. This company will function as the first wallet for Libra, allowing users to transfer Libra between each other, and eventually pay for items with it. Simply put, it is more-or-less like Venmo and Google Pay put together.

Calibra has already launched a website which is letting people sign up for early access. The website explains that users do not need a Facebook profile to access Calibra, just a government-issued ID. And while Calibra will be available as a stand-alone app, it will also be accessible on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.  

Libra Association says they will try to ensure that the Libra infrastructure will be available to companies other than Calibra so in the future there can be other payments systems that can use the Libra freely.

Concerns

Many are quick to point out if it is safe to trust Facebook. The company has had numerous issues with privacy and data, making people question if they should be trusted with financial information

According to Reuters, Neil Campling, the head of TMT Research in London, said that “given its history of managing our data, it shouldn’t take much to convince people that Facebook managing our money is probably a terrible idea.”

People on social media have voiced their concerns as well, some even commenting on Zuckerberg’s Facebook post.

On their website, Calibra addresses the privacy and security issues.  

“Calibra will not share account information or financial data with Facebook, Inc. or any third party without customer consent. For example, Calibra customers’ account information and financial data will not be used to improve ad targeting on the Facebook, Inc. family of products.”

Noting that only certain cases, such as criminal activity or preventing fraud, would data be shared.

See what others are saying: (Quartz) (Business Insider) (CNN)

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Seattle Brewery Apologizes for Crips and Bloods Inspired Beers

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  • Mirage Beer announced the release of its Crips and Bloods themed beers, with bandana-designed cans and names like “Snitch Blood” and “Where you from.”
  • The Seattle-based brand was quickly met with backlash online, with many calling the concept offensive and in poor taste.
  • The company deleted the post and issued an apology saying that it would rename the beers and donate the proceeds to the Southern Poverty Law Center, along with other organizations recommended by the public.

Products Announced

A Seattle-based brewery apologized for its Crips and Bloods themed beers on Tuesday after facing much backlash online.

Mirage Beer initially announced the released in an Instagram post on Sunday by sharing a photo of the bandana-designed cans. One can was labeled “Snitch Blood,” while the other was labeled “Where you from.” The caption on the post included descriptions of the beers and said they would be available for sale starting Tuesday, May 28.

Screenshot of the now-deleted post taken by @BeerKulture

But the launch was quickly canceled after a number of people called the products offensive.

Reactions

Most of the backlash came after a tweet from the account Beer Kulture, which describes itself as a brand that merges beer and urban culture. The account called Mirage Beer “entitled,” and said, “people have died over that shit you’re trying to use to be down & kool.”

Others chimed in with similar responses.

Many also called for the brand to support communities heavily impacted by gang violence.

Brand Apologizes

Mirage Beer’s owner, Michael Dempster, apologized for the products with a brief statement posted on Instagram.

The post reads: “Full agree those lables were a dumb idea. Still going to release the beers, but obv with new names, and all proceeds going to the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

The caption below that post was later updated to say that a more in-depth apology was linked in the account’s bio. “I deeply regret the obvious element of appropriation, and further, that they trivialized the impact of gang violence on marginalized communities. I’m embarrassed and ashamed to find myself here,” the longer statement reads.

“I was blind, and stupid, and I wish I could take it back — not for my benefit, but to prevent anyone from feeling like this industry is any more hostile and/or insensitive than it already is. This was not my intent, and that’s part of the problem: I hadn’t thought this through,’ the post continues.

“I hope to further demonstrate my remorse in a way folks find meaningful, emphasizes the importance of inclusivity in beer, or otherwise helps prevent anyone from making similar mistakes.”

Dempster closes the apology by asking the public to offer suggestions of organizations that the brand can donate proceeds to, aside from the Southern Poverty Law Center. He also said he didn’t want to “just throw money” at the issue, but called it a “reasonable step.”

See what others are saying: (Yahoo Lifestyle) (Fox News) (Daily Mail)



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Tomi Lahren Criticizes Gillette Ad That Features a Father Showing His Transgender Son How to Shave

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  • Gillette’s latest viral advertisement shows a father teaching his transgender son how to shave for the first time.
  • Many applauded the razor brand for its inclusivity and for choosing to feature a transgender man, despite any anticipated backlash.
  • Meanwhile, others took issue with the campaign like conservative commentator Tomi Laren, who called the ad “a little much” and said it promotes “undergoing hormone therapy and gender reassignment” to young people.

The Ad

A new advertisement from the razor brand Gillette that shows a father teaching his transgender son how to shave for the first time has been met with mixed reactions online.

The video features Samson Bonkeabantu Brown, a Toronto-based artist who opens up about his first experience shaving after his transition.

“I always knew I was different. I didn’t know there was a term for the type of person that I was,” Brown said. “I went into my transition just wanting to be happy. I’m glad I’m at the point where I’m able to shave.”

The video cuts to Brown and his father in front of a bathroom mirror. “Now, don’t be scared,” his father encourages. “Shaving is about being confident.”

Brown explains that his transition is not just about him, but also about those around him. The ad then includes text that reads: “Whenever, wherever, however it happens — your first shave is special.”

The video closes on the company’s tagline, “the best a man can get.” The ad is a part of Gillette’s #MyBestSelf campaign and is being shown at the Inside Out LGBT Film Festival in Toronto.

Reactions

The video received mixed reactions from viewers. Many LGBTQ supporters applauded the company for its inclusiveness. Some even said the video brought them to tears.

Others found the ad insincere and accused the company of pandering. Some even argued that the video exploits transgender people for monetary gain.

However, some users recognized the ad as a marketing strategy but still respected the brand for the subject choice.

Others took issue with the brand supporting the transgender community in general. Conservative commentator Tomi Lahren even chimed in, calling the ad “a little much” and saying it promotes “undergoing hormone therapy and gender reassignment” to high-school-aged children.

Gillette and Brown Proud of Ad

After the ad was posted Brown took to Facebook to say that he was overwhelmed by the positive responses.

“I’m keenly aware of how blessed I am to be able to exist in this world being supported by my family in ways that all too often many of my trans brothers, sisters, and siblings who exist outside the binary are not always as fortunate,” Brown wrote.

“I am confident that this ad will encourage many of my trans siblings and fill them with the knowledge that our existence in this world can be filled with the love and support we deserve.”

Facebook post by Samson Bonkeabantu Brown

The company also seems pleased with the ad campaign. “We anticipated there would be some negative response to this video, however we’re thrilled with the overwhelmingly positive responses we’ve seen, from both consumers as well as organizations,” the brand said in a statement to PEOPLE.

“As a brand committed to helping men look, feel and act their best, it’s important to us to embrace inclusivity in how we portray masculinity. This is especially true for Samson and others in the trans community, which is why we created ‘First Shave.’”

This is not the first time the razor brand’s ads have made headlines. In January, Gillette faced backlash over a campaign that discussed toxic masculinity, harassment, and more. While many praised the brand for calling on men to do better in the wake of the #MeToo movement, others found the ad insulting and called it “anti-men.”

See what others are saying: (PEOPLE) (NBC News) (Fox News)

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