As we reported on Monday, the world’s copyright axis shifted this week after the European Parliament voted to approve a sweeping copyright reform bill supported by publishers and media companies, but which critics say could harm free expression online and fundamentally alter the way the internet works.
By a 348 to 278 margin, MEPs approved a final version of the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, including two controversial provisions: Article 11 (now article 15 in the final bill) which will require web aggregators (like Google News) to negotiate with media companies for sharing snippets of their works; and Article 13 (now article 17), which observers say will compel web platforms hosting user-generated content to filter uploads for intellectual property violations.
In recent weeks, the years-long battle over the directive had become eerily reminiscent of the SOPA/PIPA battle in the U.S. in 2011 and 2012, with tech companies and the public lining up against the EU directive, and publishers and news organizations supporting it. In a statement, Rudy Vanschoonbeek, president of the Federation of European Publishers praised the vote’s outcome, but conceded the directive was "the most hotly contested I have ever seen."
The measure will now get a vote in the coming weeks before the Council of the European Union, though observers say passage there is not in doubt. And as a directive (rather than a regulation) each EU member state will then have two years to rewrite their own national laws to comply with the directive—a prospect that could still prove contentious in some member states.
Observers say the reforms will impact the work of European libraries. In a post on the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) blog just before the EU vote, IFLA officials said some parts of the reform bill were positive, including a section on data mining. But others—specifically Article 13—risk “undermining fundamental freedoms” online.
In a statement this week, the Wikimedia Foundation expressed disappointment, but also found good and bad in the directive. "As Articles 15 and 17 (formerly 11 and 13) of the directive take effect across the European Union (EU), we expect to see direct repercussions on all online activities," reads a statement, while also acknowledging the bill has "elements to celebrate," including "a new safeguard for the public domain" and a provision that could allow libraries to provide digital access to "out-of-commerce works" that have not yet fallen into the public domain.
"While we are disappointed, the fight is not over," the Wikimedia statement continues. "As the copyright directive is implemented into national law over the next two years, it presents an opportunity for Europeans to proactively engage with policymakers and ensure national copyright protects internet freedom and empowers everyone to participate in knowledge."
The World Intellectual Property Review reports that Google officials have said they will work with the changes, but IP lawyers acknowledged a key point made by opponents of the directive: Google can afford to work with the new changes, given their dominance, but the changes might frustrate would-be innovators. “By requiring that online platforms remove or filter copyrighted material from their sites and holding them liable for copyright infringements, the costs of doing business for platforms and aggregation sites will increase,” said Rohan Massey, global head of privacy and cybersecurity at Ropes & Gray in London, warning that these changes could come “at the expense of smaller players.”
Of course, the big questions now may be: first, whether EU reps up for reelection in May will see fallout from their vote, as promised by opponents. And two, whether Europe's efforts might embolden a similar effort in the U.S.?
As usual, Gary Price at InfoDocket has rounded up a great selection of resources and reaction on the EU vote.
Back in the U.S., CNET reports that the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee has approved a bill that would restore net neutrality protections—but the bill still faces an uncertain future. In an 18-11 vote along party lines, the bill, dubbed the Save the Internet Act would prevent broadband providers from blocking, throttling, or creating “fast lanes” on the internet, and would also reinstate the FCC's authority to police abuses by ISPs. The bill now heads to the full committee, and then to the full house, where it is expected to pass easily. Then, of course, it surely hits a brick wall in the Senate known as Mitch McConnell. Last year, the Senate passed a Congressional Review Act resolution (with Republican Senators Susan Collins, of Maine; John Kennedy, of Louisiana; and Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska all voting with Democrats), however the effort fell short of getting the 218 votes needed to force a vote in the GOP-controlled House.
Motherboard has a good piece on the bill as well, noting how twisted our political landscape has become that a bill seeking to keep Internet platforms from restricting the freedom of Americans online is portrayed as infringing the freedom of multi-billion dollar corporations: "Survey after survey have shown that the vast bipartisan majority of Americans supported the FCC’s 2015 rules and opposed the repeal. But the Trump FCC was quick to bow to pressure to telecom giants like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast—despite their long history of using their role as natural monopolies to hamstring competitors and nickel and dime subscribers."
Meanwhile, also from Gary Price at InfoDocket, "The Federal Trade Commission issued orders to seven U.S. Internet broadband providers and related entities seeking information the agency will use to examine how broadband companies collect, retain, use, and disclose information about consumers and their devices."
Facebook this week announced that beginning next week it will ban "praise, support and representation of white nationalism and separatism" on Facebook and Instagram. "[O]ver the past three months our conversations with members of civil society and academics who are experts in race relations around the world have confirmed that white nationalism and separatism cannot be meaningfully separated from white supremacy and organized hate groups," reads a post on Facebook's news page.
Via the Greenville News, librarians in South Carolina want answers after two library employees mysteriously found themselves unemployed following a controversy over a Drag Queen Story Time. The paper reports that "Former Five Forks branch manager Jonathan Newton announced via Facebook last week that he was no longer manager of the Five Forks Branch. Newton's Facebook post didn't detail the reason or circumstances surrounding the change in his job status."
In Kentucky, the Courier Journal reports that The Louisville Free Public Library has scheduled a new Drag Queen Storytime for May, "after canceling the March event without explanation."
From Philly.com, here's an eye-opening story: The Philadelphia Free Library circulated a survey to employees online last December asking staffers whether they had experienced or observed bias in the workplace...and "nearly 60 employees replied anonymously to the online forum, detailing stories of harassment, discrimination and prejudice."
Good take from The Scientist about the open access movement: "Most of the news surrounding the effort has focused on disputes with Elsevier, which have led to lapses in subscriptions and lost access to the publisher’s journals. But the tune changed in January when DEAL announced its first triumph: a deal with Wiley."
An important column from Barbara Fister at Inside Higher Ed questions whether academic libraries are repeating the mistakes they made with e-journals by eschewing print books for e-book packages.
From the San Francisco Chronicle, Michael Lambert has been named to head the San Francisco Public Library. "Lambert, who has served as the acting librarian since former City Librarian Luis Herrera retired last year, will be the first Asian American to lead the city’s library."
From Purdue University, Beth McNeil, dean of library services and professor at Iowa State University, has been named the new dean of the Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies.
From Fort Wayne, Indiana's local NBC affiliate: the group "behind a petition criticizing the Allen County Public Library’s leadership will try and make their case that the library is weeding at what the group’s leader calls an 'alarming pace.'”
The Holland Sentinel, Michigan, reports on a number of bills in Michigan legislature seeking to ensure support for libraries and librarians in Michigan schools.
This is very cool: From Buffalo Business First, the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library has preserved and digitized the original manuscript of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, making a copy of the hand-written manuscript freely available online.
And Quartz has a fun list: 13 Nonfiction Books About Real, Live Librarians.