With a vote of 15 to 10, members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs voted to approve a new, controversial, copyright directive. If made into law, one of the many worrying changes of the European Union Copyright Directive would be requiring companies to monitor user-made content for copyright infringement.
What is Article 13?
As the Gizmodo article above explains, the European Union Copyright Directive is the first major update to European copyright law since 2001. Most of the Articles are of little note, but Articles 11 and 13 are particularly worrying to critics. Article 13 is particularly of note to the video game industry. It basically requires companies behind storefronts and user-content-based services monitor said content for copyright infringements. This directive could greatly impact games like Roblox, Minecraft, and other games that allow modding and other user-created content. Those who fail to “…prevent the availability on their services of works or other subject-matter identified by rightholders” risk heavy fines.
The concerns over 13
Not only would [companies] be jointly liable with the user, but they may be the only person you could find. Even if you can find the user, the odds are that a company would have much deeper pockets than the users so the majority of the damages would land with them and not with the person who created the copyrighted material.
The sorts of changes required to adhere to Article 13 would be pretty drastic. Imagine Youtube’s Content ID bots, but instead of looking out for music and videos, they’re checking Minecraft skins and Roblox levels. Companies might have to go to drastic measures to avoid fines. They could just remove offending content, or they could engage in licensing deals with big IP holders. Doctorow points out some possible problems with it:
If you’re EA or Blizzard, you can just go to an IP holder and strike a deal. It would carve out liability if you do good-faith moderation, and that will be your private deal with Disney. But it would also mean that once someone has the deal, starting a competitor becomes effectively impossible.
There are other potential problems. Trolls and other malcontents could file false copyright claims, which are indeed already a thing on Youtube. There’s also the definite possibility that adherence to the new laws would cost too much and services would have to close.
The next step for the European Union Copyright Directive is a vote in the wider European Parliament. It’s expected to take place in July, but it could be delayed to after the summer recess of July 25 to August 21. The Parliament would vote on it and possibly engage in a trilouge, where parliament members would privately meet with national government officials to finalize the directive’s language. That might be the best change to fix vague language and prevent severe negative effects.