Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The best tweet ever on the EU Copyright Directive sums up the bloc's miserable failure and misguided approach

If I'm not mistaken, this is the first time--in almost ten years and after more than 2,000 posts--that a tweet gives rise to a FOSS Patents article. This is the one, and I'll comment below:

This is about the European Commission's offensive Medium post. Some IP radicals in the internal market commissioner's cabinet or the IP unit of the Commission's services had flown off the handle and referred to critics of a copyright bill, including (among others) numerous law professors and the inventor of the World Wide Web, as "the mob."

Prior to Dr. Schestowitz, no one had actually noticed the fact that the European Commission was using an American Internet platform--Medium--for this insult because it's so normal in a way, though it's an insanity if you actually think about it. It relates to why the whole mess that is the EU Copyright Directive is on the agenda, and to what's bound to go wrong in the future, especially with that bill being enacted into law.

The insanity here is that Medium is exactly an example of the blessings that user-generated content brings and that the EU Copyright Directive's Article 13 is designed to hamper.

As I explained yesterday, the EU institutions are now about to adopt a fake compromise. The companies opposing the directive have no one to blame but themselves because they didn't leverage those genuine grassroots activities out there in the right way. They failed to persuade politicians from the center to the right, and didn't even convince some left-wingers (even the German Greens). Blowing things out of proportion with terms like "censorship" gets you nowhere. Also, while I'm really happy about and impressed by the success of the savetheinternet.info online petition, it doesn't make sense to claim that the directive threatens the Internet in general. We're talking about specific issues and should define them precisely.

Sometimes there's a pretty clear left-right divide in European IP-related legislative processes. Ultimately the European Parliament near-unanimously rejected the software patents bill in 2005, but that was because of a procedural agreement. When it came to substance, it was basically a mix of left-wingers, euroskeptics (not as strong back then as they are now, but always my friends), and a progressive minority among center-right parties (such as Finnish MEP Piia-Noora Kauppi, former Polish prime minister Jerzy Buzek and Czech MEP Jaroslav Zverina) who sided with critics of the proposal.

With the proposed Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, the problem is that politicians left and right have lost faith in market forces. They see the EU's failure in the digital-platform economy and believe overregulation is the right reponse. (With cars increasingly being digital devices on wheels, that failure may be Europe's industrial demise within a couple of decades.)

That digital failure is again illustrated by the fact that the European Commission has to take to an American digital platform to offend millions of European citizens just because they're dissidents in the copyright context.

What those politicians haven't understood yet (and there isn't much time remaining to explain it to them) is that overregulation won't solve the problem. It will exacerbate it because it will make it even harder for European companies to gain a foothold in that market. It will motivate entrepreneurial young Europeans to start their companies, or take jobs with startups, in the United States rather than in Europe.

Investment in digital-platform startups will be discouraged, and the carveout for companies younger than three, smaller than 10 million euros in annual revenues and with fewer than five million monthly users won't help in the slightest as I explained in my previous post.

Not only the European Commission but also the other institutions (and the national governments, which are represented in the Council) should ask themselves why the EU can't even use a European digital platform to insult voters and taxpayers. And they should realize that a focus on how to win, not an indulgence in envy, is the solution.

The European Union will only make things worse if it employs the methods of the old Soviet Union. You can't compete with the United States by restricting freedom. What has made China so successful? Freedom in the sense of capitalism (human rights are another topic).

To be clear, it's not just about platform companies. Europe's economy and society will suffer in general if European user-generated content will be less abundant than American or Asian user-generated content. User-generated content is used in so many sectors of the economy, and--which is extremely important--in education. And even in politics, as the Commission's post demonstrated in a negative sense.

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