Facebook & the European Union

Techcrunch reports that the European Parliament have called for an audit of Facebook’s systems in the light of reported data breaches. Will Facebook be added to the long list of US Tech companies successfully regulated by the EU albeit mainly over monopoly issues. (Google, Microsoft, Intel, Oracle). This is shared power, that the UK will lose should we leave the European Union. …

A failure to serve fans

The European Parliament sent the Copyright Directive to the trialogue process, where the views of the commission, the council and the parliament are negotiated; the final words agreed by the parliament are basically the words lobbied for by the large corporate press and content companies aided at the last gasp by the sports industry. To understand why this is shit we need to go back to basics.

Invention & Improvement

The purpose of copyright and patent laws is to encourage innovation; this has two sources, invention and improvement. Invention is clear, although the intellectual property laws will transfer the ownership to a 2nd party, usually a large corporate. Improvement is the whole arena of derived works. Derived works are as an important source of innovation as original invention and the settled intellectual property laws must encourage both. It would seem for legislators and their citizens that there is a trade-off with wealthy corporates spending large amounts of money to get the laws they want. I think we wish that they listened to their voters more.

There is a supply chain for digital content, from author/creators to distributors, to makers and consumers. We should also consider those citizens that do not give a shit making a fifth role. The makers, I take from Jessica Litman’s paper “Real Copyright Reform”, are all those who invent and trade in items that enhance the content market, from trumpet makers to computer and device manufacturers. Our laws need to encourage the makers as well and we observe that today’s music and film industries would not exist without them. Littman agued in her paper, and I precis in my review, that

The current settlement is disproportionately in the favour of one player, i.e. the distributor … The bulk of economic value accrues to the distributors, because once upon time, that’s where the bulk of the cost was, it required capital investment and risk taking. Capital could only be acquired by Joint Stock Companies. Times have changed and as I have argued we need a new fair settlement that in Ms Litman’s words “produces an ecology”, …

It’s not good for innovation and the supply of entertainment content that Laws favour only or mainly the distributors or the inventors; society needs those that improve and those that invent orthogonally. Our laws backed by international treaty (not the EU this time) do not serve us well.

The right price

Digital content is non-rival and non-excludable, or at least hard to exclude. This means that one person’s use does not deny anyone else, and that unlike say a concert, or film showing where the distributor charges at the door, the use of digital content is much harder to control i.e. harder to exclude; it cannot be done without legal sanction. The non-rival aspect means that there is no economic reason to charge for the items use because we have no need to ration its use. The non-excludable nature of the product means that we have to spend time and money making it monetisable i.e. forcing exclusion and this is sub-optimal. i.e. there is no benefit to society in building exclusion techniques. The right price for non-scarce products is free, as shown by Spotify’s royalty payments.

What is welfare economics?

In a modern, and not so modern, capitalist society, we only use the price mechanism to ration scarce resources, and digital content is not. It brings us back to Simon Indelicate’s question, why should creators get more than a market rate, which in terms of a music track, or an image is now virtually zero. I add the question if you’re a musician or a photographer and not earning enough, ask your distributors why this is?

Fair Use

The implementation of a link tax, the strengthening sports events copyright and the de-facto mandating of upload filters are all measures that favour the so called creators at the expense of other inc. fans. It is based on the premise that all derived works must licence the original content. While much of the agreed copyright law and its proponents might be seen to be based on this view this position is moderated on law, by the concept of fair use, which is recognised by the international intellectual property treaties. In numerous jurisdictions, it is also diminished by anti-monopoly law, in particular, for sports events of national importance. (In the UK, access to the FA Cup,Wimbledon and the domestic legs of the Nations Cup are guaranteed free to air access.) In these limited cases, the law favours fans.

Fair use permits the use of protected content provided the purpose, the nature of the protected work, the amount of the product reused, and the market impact of the new product permits. While the US was amongst the first to increase the period of copyright protection (from 28 years to author’s life + 75 years), they have one of the strongest fair use laws. It is in defence of fair use that the opponents in the European Parliament stressed the idea that the new law would lead to the prohibition on memes (or image based messages). Fair use laws in the EU are weak and authors have little access to the dispute resolution mechanisms. The lack of rights by citizens is one of the reasons why the laws should not be strengthened.

Hyperlinks

The linktax is an attempt by multi-national press organisations to tax the news aggregators such as google & yahoo. It has been tried in Germany and Spain; it raises no revenue for the press organisations and increases the barriers to entry for both news aggregators and the press. It penalises the smaller players. The bigger organisations just stop carrying taxable content. It also jeopardises  years of legal precedent that linking to content is always legal.

Free Speech

Human rights law now states that the right of free expression contains a right to receive information. News cannot be protected by intellectual property law, only the text of any articles, and now it would seem even the headlines. The desire for profit means that the press seek to deny access to their content. We have the right to comment and read and consume. The words around what can be copied into a 3rd party site is unclear and I assume that the hyperlink remains non copyrightable. (This may make citations harder although fortunately Wikipedia has been granted exceptions.) One further disgraceful use of copyright law is in academic publishing where science and knowledge, often funded by the public becomes enclosed behind a copyright protected paywall. (NB Patents which would protect the ideas in white papers last for 20 years, copyright lasts for authors life + 75 years). Parody is an especially important protected form of free speech, no longer in the EU.

Automation/privatisation of justice

Another aspect of the upload filters is that programs cannot and should not be allowed to take judicial decisions. Much of this software is owned by corporations and we cannot cross examine it in court; it does what the authors want not what the public wants. Courts must remain human and we are judged on fact by a jury of our peers.

Alternate business models

The arrogance of the content providers is that they assume, and demand that laws are written to support their business model of author/publisher. Yochai Benkler in his book, the Wealth of Networks identifies eight additional models many of which would require or benefit from other laws. The content owners look to make various open source and creative commons licences weaker. Their laws of exclusivity and the longevity of the protection inhibit the creation of derived works.

Derived works and shared value

In my articles on Bioware & NWN2 & Abba, I show how derived works create demand for the original author’s works. It is to the benefit of all, including authors that we need stronger protection for derived works. Back to basics, intellectual property laws must encourage improvement as well as invention. On the whole they don’t.

We should not that with programs, they are designed with application programming interfaces so that others can use these programs and today, programs are often issued for free partly so that others will share the burden of improving the product. There is virtually no program today that doesn’t need another, this needs to be made easier not harder.

Musician’s trickle down

The attempt to take exclusive monetisation rights by the three monopolists who provide the bulk of the world’s music and film content has created the opportunity for trickle down income created not on the basis of the work undertaken, but on the investment in legal barriers to entry which are often used to create an artificial scarcity, if you can’t find what you once had, then they hope you’ll buy something new.

These laws have been written by corporations in their own interests, and they only support their interests, not those of creators, not those of fans, not those of ‘makers’ and not those who build the silicon age’s industrial capital. It’s time to move on and the 19 Labour MEPs who did so, should not be supporting laws of this nature.

ooOOOoo

I apologise, this is a rant, and too long, I might come back and make something shorter, but I don’t normally. …

Big Copyright strikes again

Big Copyright strikes again

This time in the European Parliament. They want upload filters and to tax ISSP’s reuse, but you can do something about it.

Last week a committee of MEPs voted 15 – 10, reported here by one of its members, Julia Reda, the sole Pirate Party MEP, in favour of the EU Copyright Directive’s disastrous Article 13. This misguided measure will introduce upload filters that would change the way that much of the Internet works, from free and creative sharing, to one where anything can be removed without warning, by computers. They also voted in favour of Article 11, which Europeanises a German & Spanish law and places a monetary liability on internet software service providers who use snippets of news articles originally published by for-profit publishers.

This article explains why the measures are wrong, and points to the campaign sites. It was amended on the 5th July after the vote to report the result, which was that the Parliament voted to re-open the discussion in plenary.

Here are the votes, interesting splits. …

Europe’s winding road to Copyright Reform

This one of my recovered Storifies originally published in 2015. Over the last six months things have been moving on Copyright Reform in the European Union. On the 19th February, the new Copyright Directive’s rapporteur, the now sole Pirate Party MEP, Julia Reda, released her report, on which the JURI committee and later EP debates will take place. If you look at posts here and on my wiki published in 2018, you’ll get an idea as to how things changed.

This is published as at the date created. …

New Copyright Laws

New Copyright Laws

The EU is considering a new Copyright law, its scrutiny committee is JURI (Legal Affairs) and the JURI Rapporteur is the sole remaining Pirate Party MEP, Julia Reda. She has posted her report, on her website here, and commented on a blog article here. She has also posted it to a collaboration site. This immediate debate has shown little support for Reda, which may suggest she has it right, or that her priorities are the troll friendly jurisdictions. …

London Labour in Europe

London Labour in Europe

I attended the lunchtime meeting hosted by three of London’s Labour MEPs. They started by saying thank you to the members at the meeting for the efforts made to secure London’s fantastic result in the Euro elections. The meeting was framed as “How to fight UKIP?” The old canard, started by Farage that London is inoculated from UKIP, because we’re young, liberal and cosmopolitan, the truth in my mind is that London’s multiculturalism is its UKIP anti-body. One of the attendees, spoke on dealing with UKIP, which I summarised in this tweet, …

Sort orders and Strasbourg

Sort orders and Strasbourg

I thought I’d share some more thoughts on the European Pariament Election results. The article looks at some sort order silliness on the London ballot paper and then looks at the success or otherwise of the European People’s Party and the gains and losses in the European Parliament by euro-party. In London, the Liberal Democrats came 5th, failing to win a seat, but next after them was a party called 4Freedoms. This was the first on the ballot paper. It was in fact the slate of the European People’s Party, a role once held by the Tories but Cameron had the Tories walk out of the EPP, thus denying them the opportunity to win votes in the UK and denying them another 20 seats on top of their No. 1 spot; they won 214 seats. This may become important as the European Parliament votes and elects its leadership. The reason for putting themselves on the ballot paper is twofold, one, some expatriate Europeans may prefer to vote for a Christian Democrat slate rather than the Tories and it gave their lead candidate, Jean Claude Juncker the opportunity to collect votes, if not seats. …

And the results are in

And the results are in

Due to the delay in the count at Tower Hamlets, I didn’t get the London results for the European Parliament until the following morning. Labour have four out of eight seats in London. In 2012, after the London Mayoral’s I had hoped that Labour would get four seats, but had come to assume this was beyond us. Obviously not, Labour’s 36% gave it four seats, the Tories two and one each for UKIP and the Greens. The LibDems losing their one seat. Labour won the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th seats. …

It’s looking good in London

It’s looking good in London

So while we now have some solid data about how people will vote in the European elections i.e. how they voted in their locals, amassing this data into regions is a lot of work. Even the London Councils site is only reporting seats which is not helpful for predicting a proportional counting system. A number of sources have commented that London has rejected UKIP and that my last predictions were based on them getting 21% of the London vote. Both the elections and newspapers poll reporting suggests that the UKIP vote will be lower than that. The papers are also underplaying the size of the Labour council victory. I think London is going to be better than I predicted. …