The Internet was nice while it lasted


Lawmakers have approved a sweeping overhaul of copyright rules, dealing a blow to major tech companies that argued the changes will be costly and limit free expression.

Not just to “major tech companies” or other euphemisms for Google, though, as the new rules’ many, many other detractors pointed out. For instance, depending on how the mandatory upload filters are configured, this post might have been filtered for quoting a couple dozen words of CNN’s reportage. And this post might also be in violation of the so-called “link tax,” depending on how that bot is configured, because neither I nor WordPress have paid CNN for linking to their bullshit.

And yes, I think CNN is promulgating bullshit. For instance:

This is the latest flashpoint between tech giants and European officials, who have taken a much more robust approach than the United States over competition issues, data protection (think GDPR) and tax.


(The new regulations allegedly allow for the quotation of single words, so I wouldn’t be in trouble for “robust” if I wanted to quote a single fucking word without linking to the source material and ask you to trust me about the context.)

Of course CNN is in favor of the new regulations; it’s already set up to publish different content in different jurisdictions, and it’s big enough to absorb the cost of doing so. It isn’t the intended target, anyway; there are no pols on record saying that maybe CNN shouldn’t exist, which is more than can be said for YouTube.


You know a law is bad when several lawmakers say they voted for it by accident. Techdirt’s Mike Masnick characterizes that as “frustrating beyond all belief.”

I’m slightly more cynical. Sure, some miscreant scrambled the ballot order, and sure, some lawmakers are indeed that oblivious, but thirteen of them? And I can’t help but notice that more MEPs “accidentally” voted for the controversial new regs than against them, by a ratio of five to one. Unless I learn that MEPs regularly vote in error, I’m going to assume that some of them just want to deny responsibiliy.


But whether the pols are lying or just stupid is beside the point. The deed is done.

The new regs aren’t in force yet – the EU’s vassals have to draft and pass compliant legislation, and the megacorps have to figure out how they’re going to enforce it – but it’s going to happen. We just don’t know how it’s going to happen.

The best-case scenario is that Europe forms its own isolated Net, like China and, maybe in the near future, Russia. They can have their filters and taxes and such, and the rest of us will just have to live without some self-confessed dumbasses in Brussels telling us which media we can consume.

The best case is unlikely, though. What we’re more likely to get is an accelerating slide into regulatory tyranny, where the Internet we’re allowed to use is based on the lowest common denominator of all large “stakeholders'” regulations. We’ll have European upload filters and link taxes, plus American IP takedowns, plus bans on news and memes that make pols look bad, and tightened-up libel laws, and blasphemy laws, et cetera ad nauseam, all implemented by bots that err on the side of minimizing corporate liability. Oh, and lest we forget, the corporations have their own biases and axes to grind…

I’m glad that I was around to see the Internet at its height, the “digital Wild West” complained about by Europols, where freedom of the press wasn’t just for those who owned one. I’ll miss it when it’s gone.


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