The fact that copyright might screw up a startups’ next funding rounds sucks. Sadly, it’s only one of the unintended outcomes of newly proposed EU legislation on copyright. The fact that startups and tech companies might be forced to serve an Orwellian system has not yet raised wider attention.
By the end of this post you will know more.
Take a few steps back
We’re in December 2015 and the EU Commission just formulated its intention to boost the Digital Single Market by reforming copyright. Copyright is highly fragmented across the EU and is based on a multitude of exceptions & licenses without the notion of what might constitute fair use.
The reform comes along when the EU’s data economy is valued at almost €600 billion and European-born startups like Dubsmash, Soundcloud and Jukedeck are revolutionising the way we create, listen to and share creative works; when the European Saas steam engine is just the beginning and startups grow at triple digit rates, have a hard time filling their vacancies; when fan platforms allow a never greater variety of music and labelless artists and creators to be paid directly by their fans for what they do; when creative startup accelerators are moving to the EU; and volcanoes of creative creation go off in Romania. This list could go on forever.
2015 was a breakthrough for startups in Europe
These days we feel an incredible entrepreneurial optimism, a creative vein that adds to diversity and allows digital consumers to interact and create instantly. A new pop-culture of remixes, filters and mash-ups reacts instantly to what happens online — regardless whether it’s about Katy Perry, Putin or the Chewbacca Mask Lady. Nobody is just writing about Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest anymore without embedding them into their blog. A truly global dialogue at everyone’s fingertips, enabled by a wave of startups in Europe.
Contrary to this reality and many expectations, the legislator didn’t propose to empower creators and innovators. Instead, he is clamping down on them. Much of the proposal will force a higher share towards middlemen, not creators. To this end the proposed actions include an obligation for startups to filter any content that is uploaded by users, ranging from custom made wrapping paper, blog posts, image galleries, videos to any other creation you can upload. Startups have to be aware that a neighbouring right for news articles (or only a few words of them) might cripple this culture of sharing and that some of their core business, data analytics gets pushed into illegality.
The legislator didn’t propose to empower creators and innovators. Instead, he is clamping down on them.
These are only a few implications of copyright reform for the European tech scene. What these do to fundamental rights like freedom of speech and critical discourse is discussed widely already. In the following weeks we will have a closer look on the reform that might cripple competition, and hinder start-ups and small- and medium-sized businesses*.
The italic bits in the last paragraph have been used elsewhere before [dah!] and might become copyrighted and illegal to reuse without the publisher’s consent.
Allied for Startups is a non-profit advocacy group speaking up for startups in politics and government. Together with startup organisations across Europe, we organise workshops to discuss the copyright reform with startup entrepreneurs. We will share more views on the reform along the way and keep you posted here. Get in touch with us to learn more and to join one of the workshops (just write to firstname.lastname@example.org).
This month, we will discuss the EU’s #Copyrightreform in Berlin, Madrid, Paris and Warsaw.