The final text of the EU Copyright Directive has emerged from the "trilogue" committee (composed of reps from the EU Parliament, the national governments of EU member-states, and the EU presidency) and it is virtually identical to the compromise struck by the governments of France and Germany, a draft so terrible it has sparked demonstrations across Germany and a national movement to topple Germany's ruling party to punish it for its support for this proposal.
The most contentious issue in the Directive is Article 13, which makes online communities, services, and platforms liable if their users post any infringing materials, even if these materials are promptly removed. Though Article 13 no longer explicitly calls for automated filters, there is no conceivable way that every word, image, video, audio clip, etc could be vetted for its copyright status without automated systems (there literally haven't been enough trained copyright lawyers in the history of the human race to accomplish even a tenth of a percent of this task).
Obviously, this will kill off every service that lacks the hundreds of millions of euros it will cost to build and maintain these filters. The final language contains an absurdly, unusably narrow exemption for small companies with less than ten million euros/year in revenues: they don't need filters, but only for their first three years of existence, and then they do.
It's not clear that even the US-based Big Tech companies could afford this, but as the media companies have repeatedly said, they don't want Big Tech to follow the rules in Article 13: they want a rule that's impossible to follow, so that Big Tech will have to pay virtually unlimited sums for "licenses" that immunise it from prosecution under the rules.
This is Internet As Cable Television: millions of sites and services collapsed down to hundreds, each a mere distribution arm for media companies, with the public relegated to "viewer" status, unable even to communicate with one another.
This isn't over.
The vote on whether to make this law will happen in late March, just weeks before the next EU election. The petition against it the largest in European history and is on track to be the largest petition in the history of the human race (it's already within spitting distance of that title).
If there's one moment at which Members of the European Parliament are attuned to public sentiments, it's this moment, just before contentious elections where there is a real possibility that eurosceptic, insurgent parties will score big victories. If MEPs care about the future of the EU, they can't afford to confirm the accusation that they are arrogant and unresponsive to public opinion.
There's an EU-wide day of action coming on March 23. Watch this space.
European governments approve controversial new copyright law [Timothy B Lee/Ars Technica]