Publishing Perspectives has a piece on the new European Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market covering the use of copyright material online, and so does The Guardian (and doubtless Uncle Tom Cobley and All — so count me in). Wikipedia has a very full account of the whole business.

I suppose we should rejoice that the EU has introduced such regulation, giving member states a couple of years to provide legislation of their own to carry out the intention — if only because all the big tech companies appear to be strongly against it! The intention is to protect the earning ability of copyright owners by regulating the unreimbursed use of copyrighted material online. However, I wonder if this law, although targeted at the big fish, will end up applying to minnows like this one. It does seek to prohibit uploading copyright material without permission, which is probably exactly what I’m doing with the three links in paragraph one. No doubt nobody will notice even if what I am doing is wrong. But if a European government did object, I don’t see how I could prevent someone in Europe accessing this post, and I can’t see The Guardian being happy fielding regular requests from me for permission to quote.

The two “problem” clauses are Article 11 (now in the redraft actually Article 15) “sometimes called the ‘link tax,’ which will require companies such as Google to hold licenses for linking to publishers. Article 13 (now #17) meanwhile requires that Internet companies such as Reddit police their platforms for any copyright infringement uploaded to them, filtering out any offending content.” I guess I’m keeping fingers crossed that nobody is going to think Making Book is a company, and especially a company like Google or Reddit! Nevertheless there does appear to be room for concern: Cory Doctorow has written in a piece linked to in the Publishing Perspectives article “Worse, the final draft of Article 11 has no exceptions to protect small and noncommercial services, including Wikipedia but also your personal blog.” I dare say the intention of the law is not to penalize the personal blog, but laws have ways of spreading out form their original intent. The Directive does contain exemptions for “legitimate private and non-commercial use of press publications by individual users”. Let us hope that individual nations will make note of such exemptions when the directive is finalized by being passed into law in all member countries over the next two years.

This Wired video, created before the final vote, goes some way to explaining things.

If you don’t see a video here, please click on the title of this post in order to view it in your browser.

There are definite earning and usage limits to which companies are covered by the law, but these may not be sufficient on their own to make your blog exempt.

“The protection provided through fair dealing legislation” (from Hugh Stevens Blog) is what I end up relying on, though I have to admit that that phrase sounds a lot better than the vague reality of an almost offhand clause in U.S. Copyright law.  But any claim that Making Book is all about education, criticism, review, parody, or any other transformative technique is surely rather dubious. In the end I tend to console myself with the thought that Making Book is not about making money, indeed does not make any money and has no mechanisms for doing so. I tell myself the ultimate fallback is that if any copyright owner comes after me I’ll just apologize and take down the “offending” piece. Whether this is an adequate legal response I doubt, but fingers crossed. Keith Houston at Shady Characters is a bit more thorough than me, but his is a more formal, business-like blog.

I’m not sure what to think of a court decision that embedding a Tweet can amount to copyright infringement. I’m not even sure what exactly constitutes embedding a Tweet, though I suspect I’ve done it on occasion. I’ll certainly not be including any pictures of Tom Brady, even if his working for a Boston team didn’t already preclude any such thing. I do bear in the back of my mind the need not to include recognizable representations of people in any of my photos I may be using. I know professionals spend time tracking down such individuals and getting their permission. Much of the concern around copyright and the web has to do with the big guys and the content aggregators, sites which (may) make money by copying and pasting or simply linking to content produced by others: the trouble is the cure may affect others too. Let’s hope not.

See also That’s not fair on the subject of fair use.