Copyright reform to boost the digital music market – what’s next?
Few could have missed hearing about the copyright debate in Europe. Amid cries of “upload filters”, “censorship machine”, “robocopyright” and other buzzwords, the move to bring copyright up to date came under heavy fire. The battle raged for nearly three years. The final directive was published in May. It’s an impressive result for the music sector in particular.
The legislation marks a turning point for copyright rules in Europe and beyond. All eyes are now on EU member states as they start implementing the directive into their national laws. Of course, this will bring its own share of challenges. We know the lengths some parties will go to try and hold on to the status quo.
So what was all the fuss about? It started when the EU decided it was time to clarify what the courts had already been saying about platforms. They provide access to music and other copyright material uploaded by citizens, so they need a licence and can’t rely on safe harbour legislation.
As you can imagine, this wasn’t music to everyone’s ears.
Poland has the distinction of being the first country to tip Google’s lawfare strategy against the Copyright Directive–sue to have the whole thing overturned by Court of Justice of the European Union, the “CJEU.” The CJEU has, among other things, the jurisdiction to hear an “action for annulment” filed by a EU government like NATO member Poland.
So who is in Google’s Polish footprint? According to the Google Transparency Project, we find a few revolving door people. Want to bet one of them knows how Poland came to file their case so soon?
Sylwia Giepmans-Stepien: Former Junior Officer in Poland Ministry of the Economy
Marta Kokoszka: Project Manager, Polish Information and Foreign Investment Agency
Marcin Olender, Head of European Union and International Affairs Unit, Polish Ministry of Administration and Digitization
Big Door Keeps on Turning: Recent Departure from Google to (where else) Uber: Agata Waclawik-Wejman
But it’s not just the old revolving door. Google has made a substantial investment in Europe, but in particular at the University of Warsaw.
The Google Transparency Project describes Google’s investment in the University of Warsaw:
In early 2014, according to domain registration records, Google expanded its academic relationships in Europe further East, creating the Digital Economy Lab (DELab) at the University of Warsaw.
The program is described as an interdisciplinary institute funded by Google for the implementation of programs concerning the social, economic and cultural consequences of technology.
There is little public information about the extent of the partnership, or the amount of Google’s funding. However, the DELab website does offer some clues.
DELab’s director, Katarzyna Śledziewska, has a distinguished career in European policy and academic circles. She also serves as a member of another Google-funded initiative, the Readie-Europe Research Alliance for a Digital Economy….
Stay tuned, this case may turn out to be an excellent vehicle to find out more about the extent of Google’s investments.
[Editor Charlie sez: Spoiler alert! The answer is “Yes”!]
With right-wing populists expected to make big gains overall in the European elections, further legislation to rein in Silicon Valley could struggle to pass. In recent months, EU leaders have discussed imposing new digital taxes on the revenues of Big Tech companies; those efforts might not find support among Europe’s new parliamentarians. And the EU’s incipient antitrust crackdown against Big Tech—which now involves probes of Amazon and Google—could face stumbling blocks. Could Big Tech find itself depending on the votes of far-right, populist politicians to defend its corner?
[Editor Charlie sez: Let the FUD farming begin! Google fires up the addiction tactics in Europe after its miserable anti-artist message was rejected by the European Parliament. Read this article if you want to know what Google’s talking points will be in Europe.]
[Now here’s some objective journalism: “EU member states still have two years to write the vague language of the directive into law, and YouTube is not done pushing back on it.”]
YouTube and other tech platforms have argued that the only practical way to avoid liability will be to install even more restrictive content filters than the ones they currently have to prevent infringement. The EU directive does not require tech companies to do that and it makes exceptions for using copyrighted material in parody or commentary, as would be the case in Jones and Bardsley’s reviews.
But experts say it will be difficult for platforms to create automated filters that can distinguish this context, at least at first. That could mean a channel like “NitPix” would have to avoid using any movie or TV clips in their reviews to ensure their videos upload to the site in a timely manner.
There probably has never been as revealing an insight into Google’s short, loathsome and treacherous lifespan as the Article 13 legislative process in the European Parliament. It has put a microscope on Google’s fake lobbying campaign, but it also shows the extent of Google’s influence peddling to protect its profits from the European version of what we call the DMCA safe harbor.
The concentration of the Article 13 astroturf campaign seems to be centered in Germany and Poland. No surprise there–Google has been investing in European academics for a decade. Thanks to the Google Transparency Project, we know considerable detail about the extent of that investment.
Google has spent millions of euros funding European academics to write papers on digital policy, bankrolling university institutes and think-tanks in London, Berlin, Brussels, Paris and Warsaw
Over the past decade, Google has invested heavily in European academic institutions to develop an influential network of friendly academics, paying tens of millions of euros to think tanks, universities and professors that write research papers supporting its business interests.
Those academics and institutions span the length and breadth of Europe, from countries with major influence in European Union policymaking, such as Germany and France, to Eastern European nations like Poland….
For example, Google has paid at least €9 million to help set up the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) at Berlin’s Humboldt University. The new group launched in 2011, after German policymakers voiced growing concerns over Google’s accumulated power.
The Institute has so far published more than 240 scholarly papers on internet policy issues, many onissues of central importance to Google’s bottom line. HIIG also runs a Google-funded journal, with which several Google-funded scholars are affiliated, to publish such research….
And in Poland, Google has funded the Digital Economy Lab (DELab) at the University of Warsaw, similarly described as an interdisciplinary institute that will research and design policies governing technology issues. Second, Google has created and endowed chairs at higher-learning institutions in European countries including France, Spain, Belgium, and Poland. Those chairs have often been occupied by academics with a track record of producing research that closely aligns with Google’s policy priorities….
Europe’s importance for Google cannot be overstated. It is both a key market, with usage rates above 80 percent in many countries, and the most organized source of opposition to its expansion plans. The European Commission is arguably the only regulator beyond the U.S. with sufficient clout to cause Google to alter its conduct. European officials have levied billions of dollars in fines for antitrust violations and have enacted some of the most stringent laws in the world to protect consumer privacy.
Strangely enough–sarcasm alert–the countries where Google has made its most significant purchase of academic mind share are also the countries where opposition to Article 13 seems the greatest, especially Germany and Poland.
But the larger point is that there should be no doubt in the mind of any artist anywhere in the world that Google and its fellow travelers are not your friends, never were and never will be.
In case you had any doubts, YouTube’s antics in pushing its messaging on copyright reform in Europe should dispel the idea that it is a neutral platform.
When safe harbors for companies like YouTube were created in the US and in Europe 20 years ago, it was with the idea of providing a little latitude to reasonable people acting reasonably on the condition of being a neutral platform–for not creating an app for Room 101 where 2+2=5.
Not only is YouTube not a neutral platform, but YouTube and its parent Google are using YouTube to do the very thing with public discourse that Google is being prosecuted for with commercial transactions–using its monopoly position to crowd out competition.
This press release from Europe for Creators sums it up with this statement to YouTube: “You advocate freedom of expression but what we have seen is a media service dedicated to the promotion of its own views, based on false information and scare tactics.”
A cautionary tale for artist advocates around the world.
Brussels, 15 March 2019
Europe For Creators is asking YouTube for access to the same tools YT has used to promote its own messages on the EU’s copyright directive and article 13. The request is to allow Europe For Creators to message YouTubers and place banner ads on YouTube’s network, in the same way YT has done. An open letter has been sent by Europe For Creators, a coalition of professional organisations of writers, musicians, producers, comedians, films makers coming from all over Europe and representing 12 million jobs across the European cultural and creative sectors. YouTube’s behaviour in using its own network and advertising has been the subject of much debate about the platform’s dominance. Read the full letter below and on Article13.org.
An Open Letter to Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube
Dear Ms Wojcicki,
After almost three years’ worth of in-depth examinations and negotiations involving the three EU Institutions, 28 Member States, 751 MEPs, and thousands of experts and stakeholders, the European Parliament is about to take a formal decision on the directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market.
The aim of one of the main provisions of this directive – Article 13 – is to ensure that platforms such as YouTube fairly compensate the creators whose works are made available through their services. In other words, to play fair and respect the creators who made YouTube what it is today.
We believe that the Copyright Directive will create a level playing field for the European Digital Single Market, with fair and equal rules for all.
There is ample public debate around this directive and your right to defend your position, as a concerned party, is not in question. Indeed, the positions you have taken in the media or through your own videos against Article 13 are well known and nourish the public debate.
However, since the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly on Sept. 12 to approve its version of the Copyright Directive, YouTube has been actively using its own services to influence public opinion, often with misleading or false information.
You have taken advantage of your considerable influence over 1.8 billion monthly users as the biggest media entity in the world to:
- Circulate your own message to video makers and YouTubers
- Create a uniquely formatted page, similar to SaveYourInternet, on Youtube.com
- Create a portal comprising all videos defending your position on Article 13
- Run banners, pop-ups and push notifications on YouTube defending your point of view and directing traffic to your unique YouTube.com webpage
This is unprecedented and raises ethical questions.
Moreover, YouTube enabled the propagation of misinformation – such as the claims that Article 13 would lead to the shutting down of YouTube channels, kill European startups, put an end to memes and gifs and harm freedom of speech. In other words: change the Internet as we know it. Such scaremongering deliberately ignores the special protections provided in the text and misleads public opinion.
It interferes with the democratic and balanced debate that all European citizens are entitled to. We believe it is totally unfair and unacceptable that your service, which dominates the online market, is exclusively used as a media service to promote your own commercial interests in a debate over European legislation.
You advocate freedom of expression but what we have seen is a media service dedicated to the promotion of its own views, based on false information and scare tactics.
We believe in pluralism and open, democratic debate. We believe our views also need to be voiced to your audience. That is what freedom of speech is all about.
This is why we are asking you to let us, over the week of March 18-24:
- send a message to the same YouTubers so we can share with them our vision of article 13 – the one we promote on our website, www.article13.org.
- publish banner ads on YouTube as you did for the “saveyourinternet” campaign
Acting as a media service requires responsibility and accountability to ensure democratic debate.
EUROPE FOR CREATORS
About Europe For Creators:
A gathering of professional organisations of writers, musicians, producers, comedians, films makers coming from all over Europe…. We represent some 12 million jobs across the European cultural and creative sectors. We are people, not bots. And we are protesting against the false divide that has been put between citizens and us.
IMPALA – IMPALA is the European association of independent music companies. Its mission is to grow the independent music sector, return more value to artists, promote cultural diversity and entrepreneurship, improve political access and modernise perceptions of the music sector.
Editors Note: In light of the very recent article by Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on efforts by cyberturfers Create.Refresh to pay YouTubers to influence debate on the EU Copyright Directive, this analysis of influencers on Twitter is extraordinarily important. Please note, this article was reworked from earlier version). […]