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Wednesday, 12 September 2018 10:00

EU copyright law will bring some sanity to the Web

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EU copyright law will bring some sanity to the Web Pixabay

The European Parliament will vote on Wednesday (Thursday, Australian time) to either pass or reject copyright guidelines that will make the online world a much fairer place.

But technology companies like Google and Facebook, which are parasites and use content produced by others without any payment and make billions out of it, are unhappy as this would make them a little more accountable. It would also make them pay for what they use.

The coverage of the vote is emotional, to put it mildly; the American news aggregation site Slashdot — an outlet that produces nothing of its own, but uses content from others to make money — has characterised it this way: "The EU Could Vote To Wreck the Internet Tomorrow".

A vote taken in July failed to put the law in place, with the parliament's plenary voting 318-278, with 31 abstentions, to reject the negotiating mandate that had been proposed by its legal affairs committee on 20 June.

There are two provisions which have caused the freeloaders to shout out against the law. One would make platforms like Google's YouTube legally liable for copyright violations, meaning that it would have to prevent copyrighted content from being posted without payment.

Google always ducks this issue, but it never hesitates to monetise copyrighted content until some company heavies it to take the content down. European news agencies recently joined hands to complain about the "plundering" of news.

The second provision in the copyright law that freeloaders are against would create a "neighbouring right" which means newspapers, magazines and news agencies would have to be paid when Google or other websites link to their stories. Exactly what is wrong with this is again difficult to say.

Considering the billions that some companies make from using others' content without so much as a link back to the original source, one finds it difficult to see what is wrong with that provision.

Just a few days back, several paragraphs published in an iTWire story — our own story — were lifted verbatim by the Daily Mail, which is a notorious plagiariser, and used without any attribution. When queried about this — the newspaper only has a Web form for correspondence, no media contacts at all — the only reply that could be squeezed out was: "We are looking into the concerns you have raised and will revert once our investigation is complete."

This is but the tip of the iceberg. Rewriting stories is not an issue, provided the original source is given credit. Everybody does it. As a rule of thumb, attribution should be given within the first three paragraphs, not in the last paragraph.

Will there be trolls who ask for content to be taken down, citing crazy reasons? There are more than enough of that category right now.

While some blame the EU for the law, in truth it is the big boys of the Internet — the Googles and the Facebooks — who have brought this on themselves by their cavalier attitude to everything but their own bottom lines.

There is plenty of money to be shared around. Google and Facebook, of course, would not agree with that as they cast their greedy eyes around looking for the next place to plunder.

Bring on the EU copyright law, is what I say. It will restore some order to what is a chaotic mess which benefits only the big tech companies.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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