The EU's new copyright legislation -- what it means for memes

Tussle in Brussels
Yesterday, the EU Parliament passed the Copyright Directive, a controversial piece of legislation meant to bring copyright law into the 21st century. Like most regulatory frameworks, it's confusing -- here's what you should know:

What’s this legislation all about?
The new legislation is an effort by the European Union to update copyright protections for content rights holders (think music labels, news publishers) from having their songs, articles, images, videos, etc. posted without their permission.

Who cares? And why do they care?
The legislation faces opposition from user-generated content aggregators (Google, Facebook, PornHub, Wikipedia, and Reddit among others), digital rights activists, and over 5 million European petitioners

While the legislation is justified in theory, the opposition argues there are two provisions that may do more harm than good: Article 11 (the “link tax”) and Article 13 (“upload filters”). 

Let’s break down each one:

Article 11 -- the "link tax"
Under Article 11, news publishers now have copyright protection for their headlines and snippets, both of which are used frequently by aggregators like Google and Facebook. 

This means, for example, that if Google shows any part of a news article (including the headline, image, or snippet) in Google News then publishers can collect a fee (aka link tax). 
What Google says Google News will look like minus copyrighted materials
The impetus for implementing a “tax” of this nature is clear -- publishers have long been at the mercy of platforms like Google (and others) for much of their traffic and one change to an algorithm can dramatically affect a publisher’s bottom-line. Wanting to take some power from the aggregators and give it back to the publishers is understandable.

However, in practice Article 11 would probably play out in one of two ways for publishers:
  1. Publishers band together (similar to a union) and force Google to either pay a link tax or have no content for their news product. Google was actually faced with this choice before in Spain, and it chose to just drop the news product altogether. 
  2. Some publishers choose not to charge Google for use of their snippets and Google drops the others -- leaving them with no way to effectively distribute their content.

Both of these scenarios are bad for publishers.

Article 13 -- the "upload filters" problem
Article 13 makes content-sharing services (YouTube, Soundcloud, etc.) liable for any unlicensed copyright-protected material uploaded by users. 

Opponents of Article 13 fear the provision will force services to implement increasingly discriminate “upload filters” that monitor for copyrighted material -- in effect, leading to the “death of memes.”

That being said, there are special provisions in the new law for parody that should protect meme content but it’s anyone’s guess as to how filters would discern a meme from non-parody copyrighted material. 

So what happens now?
Keep in mind this is an EU directive, not a EU-wide law, and individual member countries will have two years to translate the directive into local law.

Also, there’s likely to be new legislation introduced in the EU Parliament targeting the removal of the two problematic articles.

The vote only passed by a five-member margin and apparently 10 members accidentally voted the wrong way.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
side pieces

The FTC finally stepped up to fight robocalls

Read on or just let John Oliver explain
On Tuesday, the FTC announced they had successfully shut down and fined four robocalling companies responsible for billions of illegal calls.

What’s a robocall?
Robocalls are technically any pre-recorded phone calls, but mostly the shady “you owe money to the IRS” calls. 

Some robocalling stats:
Will this make a difference?
Maybe. The FTC and FCC have been throwing down multi-million dollar fines for years and the calls keep coming -- mostly because it’s so cheap and simple to set up a robocalling operation. 

A more powerful solution would be for government agencies to force carriers to police robocallers and cut the bad guys’ cords. Ajit Pai, the Chairman of the FCC has pressured carriers in the past but stopped short of imposing any real regulation.

Airbnb hits major milestone and passes up Hilton

Yesterday, Airbnb celebrated the arrival of their 500 millionth guest just a few weeks after the company acquired last-minute booking app HotelTonight.

But wait, there’s more A new report this week estimates that US consumers now spend more with Airbnb than with Hilton (including subsidiaries like DoubleTree and Embassy Suites).
Airbnb tripled sales in the last three years, building a significant lead over its main vacation rental competitor HomeAway (which owns VRBO). Estimates put Airbnb’s US lodging market share at 19%.

Most of Airbnb’s growth has come from expanding its user base in the central US. Last year just over a third of Airbnb customers came from California, New York, and Florida -- down from over half back in 2012.

Food for thought Airbnb has around 6 million listings worldwide vs. Hilton’s ~5,500 properties (900,000 rooms) -- with that kind of inventory, they better be outperforming hotel chains. 
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Brendan Uyeshiro
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