The EU is at it again!
The European Union is at it again, proposing to change copyright law. About 2 years ago, the EU proposed to make it illegal to share images of copyrighted buildings and monuments. The obvious problem for photographers was knowing what was copyrighted and was not. For example, the Eiffel Tower during the day is not copyrighted but after sunset it is. The reason being that the light show on the tower is copyrighted and any shared photograph, or image used for commercial purposes, of the light show would be an infringement of the copyright. Luckily, the EU committee charged with reviewing this saw sense and threw it out.
So, what is the Union up to now?
An update to the EU Copyright Directive is due for a committee vote later this month and a parliamentary vote after the summer. Article 13 of the said proposal covers the "Use of protected content by information society service providers storing and giving access to large amounts of works and other subject-matter uploaded by their users". It states that websites which provide "large amounts of works or other subject-matter uploaded by their users" will have to compare their users' submissions against a database of copyrighted works. Sites will have to ensure that copyright agreements are met and if not prevent such work from being published on their sites. Websites that publish such content must use measures to monitor copyright infringements, such as the use of content recognition software. They will also be required to inform copyright holders of what systems they have in place for identifying content.
In addition, copyright holders will be able to update their list of content at any time, and websites must have complaint and resolution processes in place for copyright holders.
What does this mean?
This is hugely problematic on so many levels. Content recognition software is at best, adequate. I posted an article a while back which mentions that London's Metropolitan Police proposes to use this type of software in the hunt for sex offenders but photos with sand dunes are often flagged as images containing nudity.
And then, what constitutes a breach of copyright? A selfie of you wearing a t-shirt with a sport brand's logo on it? A Facebook video of you and your friends at a concert where you can hear and see the artists? The list goes on. Is the software going to be able to evaluate each post on its individual merits, or just block all posts which might constitute a breach? If you consider that there are about 500 million active Instagrammers uploading 80 million images on average every day, there's no way a team of people could filter so many images. This all spells bad news for photo sharing and social media sites, and their users.
There are further reaching implications for news websites and the likes of Wikipedia, which could mean they would have to be taken offline. This is a badly thought out and drafted piece of legislation with far reaching implications. I sincerely hope that the committee sees sense later this month and refuses to ratify it, as they did 2 years ago.
UPDATE: On 20th June 2018 the EU’s Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) voted in favour of the legislation. It now passes to a Parliament Negotiating Mandate vote, probably at the beginning of July. If it passes that step there then has to be an agreement between the Council of Europe and the European Parliament. Should they agree there would be a final Parliamentary vote at the end of this year or the beginning of 2019.
Keep your eyes open.