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Why the EU's Controversial Copyright Reform Will Ultimately Fail

The Eu is set to implement a controversial copyright policy within the next couple of years, one that will severely restrict the fair use of online content and one that the EU hopes will reshape the internet.

In reality, the copyright directive is largely what you would expect if a bunch of people with only a surface understanding of the internet were lobbied by a persistent group of people who also don't really understand the internet. It's an internet-wide copyright system akin to YouTube's infamous contentID system.

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ContentID was introduced by YouTube in response to intense lobbying by industrial copyright holders from the film, music, and videogame industries. The uploading of copyrighted content to YouTube was one that YouTube is powerless to stop profitably. And because this is a mammoth subsidiary of a monolithic corporation, it "can't afford" to police the content that is uploaded.

ContentID is notorious because it is the laziest and most ineffectual solution to a minor problem. Without wanting to get bogged down in the details - ContentID is not only hilariously easy to abuse, but it is also sometimes laughably inaccurate. Or it would be if it didn't have the potential to interfere with people's earnings.

Copyright Directive

It is Articles 11 and 13 of the EU's proposed copyright directive that have drawn ire. Article 11 enables publishers to charge platforms such as Google to use snippets of their content. That would mean that if Google wanted to list a news story in its search results page - something which clearly benefits the publisher - they would have to pay them some money. Of course, Google hasn't helped itself here with the way it managed its amp service in the past, but that's another discussion.

Article 13 is the ContentID-esque upload filters that will be required of major platforms in order to automatically identify copyrighted content.

Points of Failure

While the copyright directive is an unfortunate misstep, it is unlikely to last. First of all, we are a long way from having filters that are accurate enough to be able to adhere to the kind of black and white guidelines that the regulations would represent. The directive sets out precisely what is and isn't covered - no algorithm is sophisticated enough to judge according to such specific criteria perfectly. That means that there are going to be issues of fairness, potentially of lost revenue, and ultimately of an ECJ battle.

Furthermore, as various nations threaten to tighten their internet freedoms, there is a growing awareness of VPNs, proxies, and other services that defeat geo-location measures. In such a future, regional internet restrictions will mean little, we've already seen how easy it is to access sites blocked due to GDPR. Then you have services like Getflix. Getflix provides access to global online media and streaming services regardless of your location.

Politicians are not good at legislating when it comes to technology. This is evident in Australia right now, where the government has pressed ahead with draconian encryption laws. Encryption laws that the other Five Eyes countries look set to follow. But, much like the EU's proposed copyright directive, these policies will disintegrate on contact with reality.

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