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European Union Passes Sweeping Copyright Rules

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 […]

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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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Raiders Owner Says He Won’t Take Down Controversial “I Can Breathe” Tweet

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  • The Raiders football team ignited outrage Tuesday after posting a tweet that read “I can breathe,” which some criticized as tone-deaf.
  • The tweet was shared after the murder and manslaughter convictions of former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on 46-year-old George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes last summer as Floyd repeatedly said he could not breathe.
  • Despite understanding the vast negative reception of the post, Raiders owner Mark Davis said he would not remove it. “I thought it was something where we could all breathe again,” he said. “Justice was served. We still have a lot of work to do on social justice and police brutality. But today, justice was served.”
  • Similar remarks about Chauvin’s convictions serving as justice have launched heated debates, with many, including Sen. Bernie Sander (I-Vt.) and NBA player Lebron James, arguing that accountability was served but not justice.

“I Can Breathe” Tweet

Following the murder and manslaughter convictions of former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin on Tuesday, the Las Vegas Raiders football team tweeted, “I can breathe.”

The message is a play on Floyd’s infamous “I can’t breathe” pleas, which he repeatedly cried out while Chauvin kneeled on his neck for nine and a half minutes last summer. Perhaps not-so-surprisingly, that tweet has since attracted condemnation from many who’ve denounced it as tone-deaf.

NBA player Lebron James expressed disbelief that such a statement was even published, saying, “This is real???? Nah man this ain’t it at all. The F^%K!!!!”

“It’s obvious what the raiders statement was going for,” one Twitter user wrote. “But ignorance is at the roots of racism, and you need to use your resources to combat your own ignorance.”

Others were less critical of the Raiders. For example, some argued that the tweet’s intentions were still pure, even if tone-deaf. Others cited Floyd’s brother, who made a similar statement of “Today, we are able to breathe again,” following Chauvin’s conviction. 

The Raiders weren’t the only entity to be accused of making a tone-deaf response Tuesday. Many also claimed that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) basically thanked Floyd for being murdered after she said, “Thank you, George Floyd, for sacrificing your life for justice.”

Raiders’ Owner Mark Davis Claims Responsibility for Tweet

Many initially described the “I can breathe” tweet as a fairly glaring blunder from the Raiders’ PR team; however, overnight, it was learned that the tweet was actually the brainchild of Raiders owner Mark Davis.

“I thought that said a lot,” Davis said in a phone interview with the Associated Press. “It said a lot about everything. I thought it was something where we could all breathe again. Justice was served. We still have a lot of work to do on social justice and police brutality. But today, justice was served.”

“I feel bad it was taken in a way it wasn’t meant to be done,” he added. “That can only be my fault for not explaining it.”

Davis also took a moment to apologize if the tweet offended anyone in Floyd’s family, but he added that he won’t take it down.

“It was taken negatively by 99 percent of the people,” he said. “That happens. That’s part of social media.”

Was Justice or Accountability Served on Tuesday?

The question of whether or not justice was actually served with Chauvin’s convictions has become a national debate over the past 24 hours. 

For example, actor Chris Evans tweeted “Justice” following the verdict. Likewise, singer Katy Perry said, “Rest in JUSTICE George Floyd.” 

Meanwhile, others such as Rep. Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) and Sen.Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took noticeably different stances. 

“That a family had to lose a son, brother and father; that a teenage girl had to film and post a murder, that millions across the country had to organize and march just for George Floyd to be seen and valued is not justice. And this verdict is not a substitute for policy change,” AOC said.

The jury’s verdict delivers accountability for Derek Chauvin, but not justice for George Floyd,” Sanders wrote on Twitter. “Real justice for him and too many others can only happen when we build a nation that fundamentally respects the human dignity of every person.” 

That’s a sentiment Lebron James echoed in a one-word, all-caps tweet reading, “ACCOUNTABILITY.”

See what others are saying: (ESPN) (New York Post) (Yahoo! Sports)

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Elon Musk Claims Autopilot Wasn’t On, But Feds Are Now Investigating a Driverless Tesla Crash

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  • Two federal agencies are investigating a driverless Tesla crash that killed two passengers and may have been the result of an unattended Autopilot feature. 
  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted Monday that Autopilot was not enabled and that the car’s owner had not even purchased Full-Self Driving; however, authorities have not confirmed this and have only said no one was in the driver’s seat when the car crashed. 
  • Local authorities said they plan to issue search warrants to obtain the car’s data and definitively conclude whether Autopilot was enabled.
  • The Washington Post projected that the ongoing federal investigations into the crash could lead to the potential government regulation of Autopilot features. 

Driverless Crash Kills Two

Federal agencies are investigating whether or not an Autopilot feature is to blame for a deadly Tesla crash that happened over the weekend.

That incident occurred around 11:30 Saturday night just outside Houston when a Model S ran off the road at a high speed and crashed into a tree, killing both men inside the car. 

According to local authorities, no one was behind the wheel; rather, they said one man was sitting in the rear of the car and the other was in the front passenger seat. 

Constable Mark Herman noted that the fire caused by the crash took 30,000 gallons of water and “four hours to put out.” Had the car not been an electric vehicle, Herman said the fire “would have taken a matter of minutes” to extinguish.

The aftermath of the blaze shows the car nearly completely destroyed, with only a husk remaining. 

As a result, some have raised concern about the batteries used in electric vehicles, because while generally safe, they can result in “thermal runaways” if the car crashes at a high speed. 

Did Autopilot Cause the Crash?

According to testimony from the men’s wives, just minutes before the crash, both men had been talking about going for a drive. Reportedly, they had also been discussing the car’s Autopilot feature. 

Consequently, while it hasn’t been definitively confirmed, there is a good amount of evidence to suggest they may have been using the feature at the time of the crash.

Still, many are unconvinced, including one person who tweeted, “This doesn’t make sense.” That person then cited a number of Autopilot’s safety features, including that seats are “weighted to make sure there is a driver, hands must be on steering wheel every 10 seconds or it disengages,” and that autopilot doesn’t go over speed limits.

Notably, in a direct reply to that person, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said, “Your research as a private individual is better than professionals… Data logs recovered so far show Autopilot was not enabled & this car did not purchase [Full Self-Driving]. Moreover, standard Autopilot would require lane lines to turn on, which this street did not have.”

That said, in replies to both comments, many users shared dozens of videos of people appearing to have Autopilot activated without anyone in the driver’s seat. 

Others claimed that Autopilot can be enabled without physcial lane lines and that it will go over the speed limit.

Duke University professor Missy Cummings also cited her research, which found that “in 30% of trials, [Tesla] vehicles drove autonomously for nearly 30 seconds on extreme curves that lacked even a single lane marking.” 

No matter the online discourse, local authorities said they plan to issue search warrants on the car’s data, which should tell them whether or not Autopilot was on.

As part of a federal response, both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Transportation Safety board have said they’re sending teams to investigate the crash. 

Notably, the NHTSA said last month that it’s investigating nearly two-dozen Tesla crashes involving either the confirmed or suspected use of Autopilot. 

As The Washington Post pointed out, this could be a sign that regulation is coming.

“At issue is whether Musk has over-sold the capability of his systems by using the name Autopilot or telling customers that ‘Full Self-Driving’ will be available this year,” the outlet said. 

To note, Tesla itself does warn drivers that they still need to pay attention and be ready to take control of their vehicles even when using Autopilot. Part of that means riding in the driver’s seat. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Verge) (Ars Technica)

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UK Now Considering Its Own Digital Currency as China Eases Tone on Bitcoin

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  • On Monday, the United Kingdom became the latest country to consider a central bank-backed digital currency.
  • While that currency isn’t technically a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin and would not remove existing physical cash from the economy, it would allow households to have accounts directly with the country’s central bank.
  • China, which is currently conducting trial runs of a central bank digital currency, called Bitcoin an “investment alternative” on Sunday — signaling a noticeable change in tone following the country’s previous crackdowns on the crypto market.
  • Though the People’s Bank of China said it will not ease its current crypto restrictions, industry insiders said they are nonetheless watching for any regulatory changes.

UK Considering Its Own Digital Currency

British Finance Minister Rishi Sunak instructed the Bank of England to look into potentially backing a digital currency Monday morning. 

According to Sunak, that central bank digital currency (CBDC)  — at least colloquially — might eventually be called “Britcoin.” 

As Reuters explained, such a currency “would potentially allow businesses and consumers to hold accounts directly with the bank and to sidestep others when making payments, upending the lenders’ role in the financial system.”

A British CBDC would not replace physical cash or existing bank accounts. It also wouldn’t technically be a cryptocurrency, though the concept of CBDCs is inspired by crypto.

The United Kingdom is just the latest country in Europe exploring a CBDC option. For example, Sweden has suggested that it could launch a digital currency by 2026, and the European Union has said it may integrate an electronic euro as soon as 2025. 

China Eases Tone on Bitcoin

It’s not just Europe. China may very well be on the cusp of launching its own digital currency. In fact, it’s already given away millions of that currency through trials being conducted in several cities.

That said, China’s end goal is currently a little different than Britain’s. Once live, China aims to have its CBDC replace some of the country’s cash.

On Sunday, China also indicated that it’s beginning to warm up to cryptocurrencies. Despite banning local crypto exchanges in 2017, among other actions, China’s central bank has now referred to Bitcoin as an “investment alternative.”

According to CNBC, industry insiders have taken note of the “progressive” nature of that comment and said they’re watching closely for any regulatory changes made by the bank; however, for now, the bank’s deputy governor said it plans to keep its current crypto restrictions in place. 

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (Associated Press) (CNBC)

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