Thursday, March 28, 2019

France wants urgent implementation of Internet upload filters: three government agencies to collaborate on this

Without going into details here in public, I am in a position to tell you that there are certain dynamics in German politics across multiple parties that ultimately might prevent the German government from allowing the EU Council, where there is no qualified majority without Germany's support, to rubberstamp the triply-illegitimate current version of the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market ("EU Copyright Directive"). I attended and was, without prior notice, invited to speak at a small impromptu demonstration in Munich last evening against the European Parliament's copyright vote.

By contrast, the Macron regime, whose police forces commit extremely violent acts even against grandmas and other peaceful citizens joining the Yellow Vests protests, is as excited as government officials possibly could be about the prospect of filtering uploads by Internet users as soon as possible.

Yesterday, Benjamin Henrion, the president of the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII), alerted me to a tweet by French journalist Marc Rees according to which the French government will start with the promotion and definition of a legal framework for upload filtering technologies in a matter of days. As per my suggestion, Benjamin asked Marc Rees for the source, not because I doubted the accuracy of the information but because I did want to see the specific context.

This web page by the French "Ministère de la Culture" (culture ministry) contains a speech that French culture minister Franck Riester gave yesterday (the day after the vote) at the "Lille Transatlantic Dialogues" during a cultural event, and the key passage is this (first in French, then I'll translate):

"Je vous annonce également que le Conseil Supérieur de la Propriété Littéraire et Artistique, la HADOPI et le CNC lanceront conjointement dans les prochains jours une 'Mission de promotion et d’encadrement des technologies de reconnaissance de contenus'.

"Elle doit permettre notamment de nous assurer de l'efficacité de ces outils, qui occupent une place centrale dans la protection des œuvres sur les plateformes de partage des contenus.

"Elle est essentielle pour que l'article 17 de la directive adoptée hier puisse produire tous ses effets.

"Il n'y a pas de temps à perdre sur ce sujet."

My translation (with explanations in [brackets]):

"I am also announcing that the Superior Council of Artistic and Literary Property [an advisory body on copyright law that is formally independent but was created by the French government to advise the culture ministry], the HADOPI [Supreme Authority for the Distribution and Protection of Intellectual Property on the Internet; in other words, a governmental copyright enforcement agency focusing on the Internet, whose creation was highly controversial at the time] and the CNC [National Center for Cinema and the Moving Image, a regulator and state sponsor of movie productions and theaters] will jointly launch, in a matter of days, a 'Project [literally he said "mission"!] to promote and define [the noun "encadrement" literally means to put something in a (legal, in this case) framework; its meaning can, however, also come close to the incorporation or employment of something] content recognition technologies [emphasis added; so this means "upload filters," plain and simple].

"Notably, this project should allow us to guarantee the effectiveness of such tools, which are central to the protection of [copyrighted] works on content-sharing platforms.

"The project is imperative to enable Article 17 [no. 17 after a renumbering; still widely known as Article 13; simply, the upload filter article] to produce all the [desired] effects.

"We have no time to waste on this topic."

The passage I just translated and explained shows the stark contrast between the French statist (= government-centric) and extremely enforcement-happy approach to digital and culture policies on the one hand, and the far more moderate German approach (with the digital policy experts of Merkel's party, and her party's secretary-general, seeking to obviate the implementation of upload filters altogether). In light of this contrast, the question is whether one and the same EU directive can really be implemented with a radically filter-focused approach in France while entirely avoiding filters in Germany. Sorry, this was a rhetorical question given that the whole idea underlying EU directives for the Single Market is to harmonize the regulatory framework across that market...

France and Germany are generally incompatible in the area of economic policy. The German approach has traditionally been that of a "social market economy," while the French idea is that government should control almost everything--not as bad as a Soviet-style plan-based economy, but somewhere between a market-driven economy and a state-run one. On top of that you have different approaches to, and traditions in, copyright law. In France they have the most restrictive rules in place: for an example, you infringe copyright by simply taking a photo of someone (even yourself) in front of a building without the owner of the building having consented. In Germany and most other countries in the civilized world, photographers do enjoy what is called the "freedom of panorama," and French MEP Cavada (who worked just as hard to push for this directive as Axel Voss MEP, and was far more radical) even sought to take that "freedom of panaroma" away from all Europeans.

Many proponents of Article 13 (now Article 17), such as Axel Voss, denied that upload filters would be a practical consequence. That's a particularly delicate subject in Germany given that the written coalition agreement between Merkel's CDU/CSU and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) explicitly speaks out against upload filters.

The French government is already pawing the ground in this regard, but we should probably thank Minister Riester for having pronounced the underlying intentions and inevitable consequences of Article 13 (now Article 17) this clearly, and only within roughly 24 hours of the European Parliament's accidental vote.

The copyright extremists accused critics of the proposal, such as Julia Reda MEP, of fearmongering. Now the very government that pushed harder for this disastrous idiocy than any other has just validated our concerns.

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