The embarrassing absurdity of Article 11, explained

Article 11 of the recently approved EU Copyright Directive is going to be fun. Eventually.

One week ago, Cory Doctorow wrote a great summary, titled “Today, Europe Lost The Internet” of all the reasons why the EU Copyright Directive as voted on Sept 12th 2018 ranges from “simply bad” to “as ridiculous as unfeasible, but still bad”. When I read that piece, I asked via Twitter a question about this specific passage of that article both to Doctorow and Julia Reda, one of the MEPs most active in fighting the Directive. Namely, I asked for the exact source of this statement:

Article 11: Linking to the news using more than one word from the article is prohibited unless you're using a service that bought a license from the news site you want to link to. News sites can charge anything they want for the right to quote them or refuse to sell altogether

I specified that I wanted to know because “if it is really ONE word, I can’t wait to format, in any blog post I will publish when that article comes in force, all links to media outlets in this way:

[onewordlinktosomeCOMPLETELYidiotpublisherwholobbiedforarticle11] followed by this PLAIN, non-link text:

("Complete title of same article" by idiot guy

Yes, they really mean it :-)

The rest of this post is simply the conversation that followed on Twitter, reformatted for better readability and posted here with Reda’s permission. Any error in the sequence of tweets is mine.

Reda promptly answered my question with two tweets, including this picture, and the link to the full consolidated proposal on her own website:

The embarrassing absurdity of Article 11, explained /img/article11-absurdity.jpg
I can't wait to see real world application of this

  1. Granted, it could be two words, but they have to be individual words, i.e. not connected to each other to form a phrase. (tweet)

  2. Oh, of course, if you are not linking, you are not allowed to even use individual words from the article (tweet).

I could not believe answer n. 2, so I asked for explicit confirmation:

“are you REALLY saying that, under this directive, if a website posts an article titled “MEPs are clueless” I would NOT be allowed to insert the whole sentence “MEPs are clueless”, NOT even as plain unlinked text in any post of mine about that same topic (NB: “same topic” is what I actually tweeted, but I meant “about that same article”, which is a much narrower scope. But my mistake only makes the absurdity of the whole thing more evident):

Answer: Yes, that’s what it says. Of course, that could never happen because it would amount to a privatisation of language, right? But that is what the directive says and that probably explains why I’m so dead set against it.

So I went on:

OK, let’s accept that for a moment. What about, instead, an individual blogger linking something from her OWN website, on which she also has ads, or requests for donations via Patreon, Paypal etc?

And Reda replied:

Same situation. The new right applies to all information society service providers, that includes blogs with ad banners etc.

Answering to another Twitter user, who had asked:

“Why do [publishers] provide features like OpenGraph or Twitter meta tags in the first place if they don’t want people to use them?”

Reda answered:

[Publishers] do want people to use them. They just hope that people will pay for that privilege (tweet). Basically, their pitch for this law is “we think that if this is passed, Google and Facebook will give us a lot of money, but otherwise nothing will change” (tweet).

As I already said…

I really can’t wait to see how this will play out in the real world. The unwilling creativity and endless mockery that all this will arise is really going to be a lot of fun, eventually. Except for the publishers and, on May 23rd, 2019, for all the MEPs who approved this stuff.