Saturday, February 23, 2019

Street protests are mounting against Article 13 of the EU Copyright Directive: more participants than last week

Toward the end of an eventful week on the EU copyright reform front, during which the EU Commission was forced to apologize for calling dissidents a "mob" and the most controversial part of the bill--Article 13--almost got blocked in the EU Council, it's clear that the only EU institution that can still prevent a digital disaster is the European Parliament. But I'm increasingly hopeful as there are ever more signs of the people showing their elected representatives that it would be unwise for them to approve the most controversial piece of Internet legislation in history--and to do so shortly (less than two months) before European Parliament elections.

The Commission at least apologized for inappropriate language. I'm still waiting for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) of Germany--Merkel's party--to apologize for incorrectly attributing to "bots" the genuine outrage of countless humans of flesh and blood. Those people have voting rights or will reach that age soon, and Merkel's party risks making itself extremely unpopular among an entire generation of voters.

I'm writing this post as I'm watching a livestream of today's anti-Article 13 demonstration in Cologne, Germany. Thousands of mostly young people--at least twice as many as a week ago, despite the demonstration having been announced only three days (!) ago--are taking to the streets of Cologne as speak, and just the livestream I'm watching has more than 10K viewers at the moment (and it's not even the only one--all streams combined had more than 30K viewers).

It's arrogant and ignorant at the same time to argue that those protesters don't understand the issue or that they allowed themselves to be used by Facebook and Google. This is a grassroots movement no matter what the proponents of the most stupid EU bill in a long time may claim.

The Merkel-party MEP who's pushing for this bill to be adopted by the European Parliament, Axel Voss, needs a lesson in basic copyright law. He argued that most social networks wouldn't fall under Article 13 because it takes a substantial quantity of copyrighted material to be uploaded--but any profile picture is copyrightable, and, in fact, most Facebook or Twitter posts meet the (low, for good reasons) threshold for copyrightability. Either Mr. Voss is the most incompetent MEP ever to have been the Parliament's chief negotiator or he's extremely dishonest and seeks to mislead his colleagues in the Parliament, the media, and the general public against better knowledge. Pick whichever one of the two explanations you prefer. Either one is a disgrace for European democracy.

At the final rally, one of the organizers said the most offensive thing was that politicians like Mr. Voss claim the movement opposing Article 13 was in the pocket of large American corporations. The speaker said that's absolutely untrue: they're young people concerned about what the bill would do to the Internet, and there's no company behind them.

There's tremendous momentum behind these protests, and the biggest demonstration is planned to take place in Berlin on March 23. Resistance to Article 13 is particularly visible in Germany, but next month there will be demonstrations in many European countries.

Finally, let me show you three screenshots from today's livestream:

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