Support Article 13? Pt 2

In the last post, I gave an overview of The European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (aka Article 13). I talked about how it is meant to help creators by tightening the copyright laws, such as making service platforms like Twitter responsible for making sure posted content is not infringing on copyright. I also talked about how even though the proposal doesn’t aim at memes, they could suffer. But in this part, I want to talk about the service platforms, the creators, and the customers.

While the proposal is meant to help creators, it could harm them. And I’m not talking about how things like gameplay walkthroughs or theory channels or possibly review channels would be affected–they wouldn’t be able to show clips from the movies or games they are talking about or show cut-outs of the characters. I’m talking about the same thing that’ll affect both creator and customer: the money.

Let me explain…

Right now, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and so on are free for customers to use. Those customers include creators who post their vlog on YouTube or tweet a link to their latest blog entry to authors who use Facebook to advertise their latest book. You can also include those who just chat and show pictures of their lunch as customers. These services are free because Twitter (et cetera) don’t really do much. They are there as a tool. They are just the place to store and distribute whatever it is that people are posting–much like eBay is a marketplace distributor. But unlike eBay, YouTube and gang don’t charge a fee when someone buys a product…yet.

If Article 13 passes, these sites will need some kind of system to monitor the posts (I gave a few option examples in the last post). As I stated in the last post, all the options cost money and time. That money has to come from somewhere. Right now it is mostly from advertising or from special memberships. If the proposal passes, the services will need to spend more money to meet the new regulations. At first, it is unlikely they’ll charge for their services, but as time goes on and the cost of business exceeds the money from advertisers, they’ll need something. It’ll probably start out as an ad-free membership service. The free service will probably be garbage compared to the membership, prompting others to use it. Eventually, you’ll have to use the paid-for service or suffer.

So, customers will have to pay. That includes both creator and traditional customer. Many small business owners, such as animators, artists, authors, and so on rely heavily on social media platforms in order to create, distribute, and advertise. Even if developers/creators, like Epic Games, allow the walkthroughs, many of the YouTube creators won’t be able to afford publishing the video anyway. If they have to pay YouTube to post their video, chances are they won’t be able to afford it.

So, the creators lose their jobs and there’s no more content. And I don’t know about you, but I’m not paying $9.99 a month (or whatever the subscription fee will be) to watch cat videos. So…there goes the platform and countless other jobs.

You don’t think it’ll happen? Well, it’s already starting. YouTube has had their streaming/cable service for how long now? Also, look at television. At first, advertising paid for the show. You watched the ads and the creators got paid (sounds sort of familiar doesn’t it). But as costs went up, the stations needed more money, so they began charging the customers. And now years later, streaming services have come along and charge less causing people to dump the cable and subscribe to Hulu or Netflix.

How about the old video rental places like Blockbuster? Netflix charged less and offered more by having the movie sent to the person. Eventually Blockbuster closed and Netflix started increasing their price. Or how at first, you could get an iTunes song for $0.99, but as more people switched to digital, the price went up!

Sorry, my train of thought derailed there a bit.

What I’m trying to say is that at first, I supported the proposal–copyright is a good thing: people should be getting paid for their work (the Society of Authors makes a pretty good argument). But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that if it passes no one wins. The people who make reviews and theories and such lose their jobs. The platforms like YouTube and Twitter have to pay more to keep up with the new regulations (and if they can’t, they either fail or have to start charging or charge more). The customers will have to pay service fees to use the platform. The creators that the whole proposal is supposed to be protecting lose too. They could lose the free advertising and word of mouth that they get from social media, reviews, and theorists theorizing. They could lose the places that distribute their work, regardless if they are “original” or “review.” And, of course, the memes would get caught in the overzealous algorithm that would need to be created to meet the proposal’s regulations.

But hey, that’s just a theory…a business and human nature theory. Sorry, I had to get one more meme in…while I still can.

But in all seriousness, the proposal is a not that horrible of an idea, they just need to rethink their wording. Right now, the language is vague and really opens itself up to those with nefarious plots who wish to exploit the loopholes.

Joe Rover eBooks are available at many online retailers.

Support Article 13? Pt 1

I’ve spent many sleepless nights trying to figure out where I stand on the European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, or as it is more infamously known as–Article 13 (you know that thing where everyone is shouting #savetheInternet). Or maybe it was just the caffeine. Wait, I don’t drink coffee…

The directive is an effort to tighten copyright laws. If passed, it would only be a EU ruling, but it could affect everyone. Right now, organizations like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are protected by “safe harbor” laws, which means if you created a video and then someone copied it and posted it on YouTube, you can’t sue YouTube (more on safe harbor can be found here or on The Film Theorist Channel for a simplified explanation). Which makes sense, YouTube didn’t break the law…the poster did. Under the new directive, Facebook, YouTube, and their digital brethren would be responsible.

As an author, the directive might actually benefit me. It would make sure that I got paid for my work. For instance, according to WIRED’s article, Article 11 would require news aggregator sites to pay a link tax for the articles they share.

Also, under this directive content such as game walkthroughs would be gone. With no more Fortnite videos, people might actually pick up a book…or at least watch YouTube videos done by animators. This might give animators a shot at making actual animations and not vlog animations. Right now the YouTube algorithm supports longer and daily videos, which is very difficult for animators to do. With no long, daily gameplay videos popping up, the algorithm would have to be changed to support the shorter, less frequent videos (or even longer, less frequent videos) that animators or other storytellers can do.

But in reality, it is unlikely that Fortnite videos are going anywhere, even if the directive passes. The YouTubers who do gameplay videos can get away with it partly because the creators don’t raise a stink about it. First, it would be a nightmare for Epic Games to monitor every post for any Fortnite gameplay, which is one of the reasons the directive was proposed in the first place. The directive designers want Epic Games to spend their time and resources on making, well, epic games instead of scouring the Internet looking for copyright infringement.

Second, Epic Games (like many other developers) realized these YouTube videos were free marketing. Even if a theory channel (cough, The Game Theorists, cough) makes fun of the game, people are still talking about it. And sometimes someone making light of your product is more effective than someone praising it.

So, even if the directive does pass, the companies will probably still allow the walkthroughs. They’re not going to shoot themselves in the foot by getting rid of their free advertising. It’s why authors allow reviews done on their works. It’s free advertising and customers like knowing what they’re getting before they pay for it. I know I’m not paying $60 for Marvel’s Spider-Man if I don’t know if I’ll like it. Also, the genie is out of the bottle. People know about and love the idea of watching walkthroughs. The companies don’t want the bad PR from being the one to “destroy the freedom.”

The other rallying cry of those who don’t support Article 13 is the idea that memes will be banned. Turns out, nope. Memes are considered parodies and therefore, OK. The problem is that computers can’t tell the difference between a parody and the real thing. They have to be programed. So, there are a few options. And while I do have a degree in computer science, I don’t work for Google or Apple so they might have more effective ideas.

Anyway…

One option is YouTube, Twitter, etc will need a database for their copyright catching net to search through. Someone uploads a video and the system scans it and either okays it or rejects it. It’s how your bank password works (roughly). You enter your password and username, the system checks and says, “Yup, that matches” and let’s you in. It’s a lot more complicated with a lot more firewalls, security, and such but that is the basic idea. So, the system would need a reference, which means a server containing every movie, book, video game, and so on. That’s a lot of server space and it would take forever for you to upload a video as the computer tried to search through the files. So, that’s out.

Option two: some kind of code embedded into the object, like DRM codes that eBooks, music, and such have already. The system scans the upload and says either “there’s no code; you pass” or “there’s a DRM…YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” (I had to do it. I am talking about memes.) But…if you wanted to make a meme you’d need to figure out some way to remove the DRM. Or you would need to pay for some kind of meme-DRM.

Option three: forget the computer and hire people. The services could hire people to check the videos/posts and see if they are memes or not. Like that’ll happen. They would need to hire a lot of people in order to monitor every tweet or video that gets uploaded. And that’s all they would do…all day.

Option four: licensing. The creators, such as Epic Games, do as they do now (just more officially) and allow the memes, the gameplay, the reviews. They work with YouTube, Twitter, and so on. Of course, someone will abuse the system and upload the whole Toy Story 4 movie and then YouTube gets sued by Disney which is the whole reason they created the safe harbor law in the first place. So, then Disney and everyone else removes their permission and we’re back to memes being banned and YouTube channels being shutdown.

Pretty much all the options are costly or inefficient. Ironically, the best meme-protection is the system already in place.

So, it’s not looking too good for the memes, legal or not. But in the next post (because everyone loves a two-parter…not), we’ll look at the one’s who’ll suffer the most if the directive passes: the service platforms, the creators, and you (the customer).