On September 12th, the European Parliament will vote on whether to include Article 13 with the new Copyright Directive, and if they do, they will destroy the internet.
Under Article 13, anyone who allows users to communicate in public — to post audio, video, stills, code, anything that might be copyrighted — must be sent to a copyright enforcement algorithm that will compare it to all the known copyrighted works (anyone can add anything to the algorithm's database) and censor it if it seems to be a match.
No one has ever built anything remotely like this. The closest anyone has come is Youtube's Content ID system, a $60,000,000, universally loathed copyright enforcement system.
German music professor Ulrich Kaiser had heard Article 13's proponents dismissing the idea that the system would end up censoring legitimate works, so he tried a disturbing experiment: he uploaded public-domain recordings of "Bartok, Schubert, Puccini and Wagner" and waited to see if Content ID would censor him.
Shortly thereafter, these public domain recordings by long-dead composers were attracting a flurry of copyright notices, each claiming that Kaiser had violated copyright and demanding that his videos be censored. He sent counternotices with mixed results — sometimes, Google's own counternotification address just refused to accept his emails — and found his channel plastered with other peoples' advertisements, and his open licenses switched to proprietary ones.
Content ID has a mere 75,000,000 works in its database; the EU proposal is orders of magnitude larger, and will grow to encompass billions of works — every copyrighted photo, song, book, article, and snippet of code. Content ID is a garbage fire, and it only has to examine a limited selection of videos, and only considers their soundtracks.
We have ONE WEEK to stop this absurdity. Here's where you go to write to your MEP about it. Every European should visit this site. Make sure you personally get in touch with at least two friends in the EU and ask them to take action, too.
We can't afford to have our public communications regulated by a bunch of unaccountable, broken algorithms.
I only received more notices, this time about a recording of Beethoven's Symphony No.5, which was accompanied by the message: "Copyrighted content was found in your video. The claimant allows its content to be used in your YouTube video. However, advertisements may be displayed." Once again, this was a mistaken notification. The recording was one by the Berlin Philharmonic under the direction of Lorin Maazel, which was released in 1961 and is therefore in the public domain. Seeking help, I emailed YouTube, but their reply, "[…] thank you for contacting Google Inc. Please note that due to the large number of enquiries, e-mails received at this e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org cannot be read and acknowledged" was less than reassuring.
I wish I could tell you that the ending to this tale was wholly happy. It is true that many of my contestations of these copyright violations were successful, and the videos were not taken down from YouTube. However, I intended to release all of my videos under a free license, so that they could be used in the future for others to educate and inform students about these beautiful works. Even in cases where my defense to the ContentID claims were successful, the videos were not reverted to this free license, making it much more difficult for others to use and share these digitized works in the way I originally had intended.
This Music Theory Professor Just Showed How Stupid and Broken Copyright Filters Are [Karl Bode/Motherboard]