The copyright reform: a break on innovation

A statement on the EU-copyright reform by Dr. Florian Scheuer, CTO DRACOON

Dr. Florian Scheuer, CTO DRACOON

Regensburg, 28th March 2019 – On Tuesday it became clear that the controversial EU copyright reform will actually be implemented. The European Parliament voted in favour of the reform – a first step towards the implementation of the controversial regulation.

Certainly, the intention of the initiative to strengthen the copyright of artists, musicians and authors in the digital age and to reward their services fairly is well meant. However, the implementation, as planned, will hardly help the individual artists. Furthermore, the idea of getting major companies such as Google or Facebook to pay for the distribution and provision of all content will hardly work. On the contrary the power of the American companies will even be strengthened, if, for example, complex upload-filters are to be used to check content copyright. Today only upload-filters developed by the US-American technology giants exist (including “ContentID” by Google/YouTube).

This is only one of many arguments, why the reform misses its purpose and will instead have fatal consequences for all areas of the free internet.

Declining diversity of the free internet

If all online portals and platforms based on the exchange of text, image, sound and video documents are forced to check all their data, the diversity of information on the internet will drastically decline. Inspection processes would only be possible with technical help; the risk of receiving a warning would be too high for many operators. Filter processes are not yet fully developed in order to automatically recognise copyright violations and for example differentiate between artistic satire contributions. Instead, large quantities of data will be filtered out with so-called “overblocking”, a massive restriction on the freedom of speech and artistic freedom and therefore the variety of information.

Devastating consequences for European IT-start-ups

With the reform a legal basis is created that makes the development of new and innovative business models on the internet more difficult or even impossible. Due to the restrictions the reform entails, the number of different internet services will decline even if they were never designed for copyright infringement. In many areas the legal uncertainty will simply be too big and licencing all content too expensive and time-consuming for small start-ups. This puts obstacles in the way of young founders and slows down progress and development. Exceptions meant to spare small digital companies are almost useless as they only take effect if certain criteria are met one-hundred per cent.

Only time will tell, how the regulation will be implemented in Germany. At this stage it is certainly not be possible to assess the real impact of the reform. Nevertheless, it is already clear that compliance will be a huge task that is difficult to handle for small operators and start-ups.