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EU to ban user-generated content sites?

29 October 2018

Some of the internet's most popular websites are driven by user-generated content.

There's YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a raft of other entities which rely on users uploading material which, in turn, attracts other users which, in turn, exposes them to advertising.

Although sometimes the ads are pretty annoying, this add-funded, user-generated content paradigm has worked pretty well for quite some time now.

Of course there are some issues -- such as when users upload someone else's copyrighted material without permission. To reduce this, both YouTube and Facebook have automated content-ID systems which attempt to identify and delete infringing material. So far, most copyright owners have accepted that this is a "best efforts" approach on the part of the Net companies and so we only occasionally see law-suits claiming losses.

However, the EU is a bit challenged in this regard.

The bureaucrats in Brussels seem hell-bent on passing new laws that would effectively hold companies like YouTube and Facebook responsible and legally liable for any copyright infringements created by users' uploads.

If this law were to pass (and it's looking like it might), it could spell the death of many very popular net-based services in the EU.

After having suffered a beating at the hands of the adpocalypse, where advertisers left in droves after finding their promotions running on "unsuitable" content uploaded by users, YouTube is running very gun-shy and appears unwilling to take the risk that they might face huge fines if people upload movies, music or other material without the permission of the copyright owner.

It seems that the EU's legislators have a motto of "we're not happy until you're not happy" when it comes to regulations and this latest attempt at scuttling freedoms would effectively turn the internet into a place where all you could find was material produced by corporate entities.

Although this "Copyright Directive" was originally rejected by the EU parliament back in July, it has been revised and the new version recently passed the first hurdle to becoming law. A final vote is to be held in January.

The Verge did a piece on this issue which explains the ins and outs but most critically, it would impose a "link tax" on hyperlinks to copyrighted material and make publishers liable for any and all copyright infringements created by uploaders to that site.

YouTube has officially officially warned that this directive would place the entire creative online community at risk and has warned that if enacted, YouTube might have to block all EU countries from accessing its platform.

And now, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has urged video makers using the platform to "take action immediately" to protest the proposed legislation.

"This legislation poses a threat to both your livelihood and your ability to share your voice with the world", she stated in this blog post.

So what the hell is going on in Europe?

Did Britain do the right thing and decide to pull out of the EU, given the latter's propensity to engage in all sorts of mind-numbing and freedom-wrecking regulation?

Are the EU legislators effectively building their own cyber-equivalent of the Berlin Wall by creating an online regulatory environment which is so hostile that no sensible operators will allow access to their content from this part of the world?

I'd love to get readers' take on this.

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