EU: Silicon Valley must pay big bucks to distribute copyrighted content

The European Union is set to approve a new "Copyright Directive" to force Google and Facebook to share revenue with copyright-protected providers or block postings.

European Parliament, European Commission, and E.U. members claim that a copyright regulatory overhaul covering all digital platforms, services, and online communities is needed to "protect the bloc's cultural heritage and ensure that publishers, broadcasters and artists are remunerated fairly."

Twenty-five years after the Netscape startup became the first search engine to give nontechnical consumers broad internet search access, eMarketer predicts that U.S. digital ad spending will exceed traditional ad spending this year.

With worldwide digital ad revenue expected to triple from $68 billion last year to $218 billion by 2023, those global revenues were expected to remain highly concentrated in a Silicon Valley tech duopoly, with Google controlling a massive 38-percent market share and Facebook holding a 22-percent share.

Big tech and its fanboys argue that the E.U. Copyright Directive threatens to end everything "good and pure" about the internet.  Their wrath is specifically focused on the following:

Article 13 eliminates the safe-harbor exemption that shields online platforms from fines for illegal copyrighted material distribution, if they are only acting as conduits and make "best effort" to take down infringing materials after being noticed.

Article 11 prohibits news aggregators' reproduction without license of any copyrighted material, except "individual words or very short extracts of a press publication."  There is an exception for cases of "private or non-commercial uses of press publications carried out by individual users."

Gizmodo has warned that the new regulations will stifle the World Wide Web's user-driven creativity.  Remixes and memes, news, Wikipedia, art, privacy, and "the creative side of fandom are all at risk of being destroyed or kneecapped."

It also claims that users will have less access to content and will be unable to share their content with others, that creators' ability to distribute content will be marginalized, and that only behemoths with deep pockets can sustain the regulatory financial compliance costs.

But startups and small internet service providers and platforms that might spark creatively destructive innovations are exempted from Article 13, if they have existed for less than three years or have total revenues of over $11.3 billion per year.

Facebook, Google, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter will probably have to spend hundreds of millions to develop automated copyright filters, but that is chump change compared to the profitability of these modern-day "Robber Barons."

Opponents claim that the Copyright Directive will limit the internet distribution of independent thought.  But their real concern is that established liberal content providers, like the New York Times and Washington Post, will be able to host copyrighted materials anyplace in the E.U.'s 28-nation bloc to force Robber Barons to share advertising revenues or pay fines.

Conservative and populist content providers that generally do not copyright their content and often suffer from their distribution being throttled might see greater distribution opportunities as the Robber Barons reach for more "free" content.

The internet was once a place of unbridled creativity and economic opportunity that benefited from a lack of regulation.  But there is no justification to shield internet billionaires and trillionaires from the reach of laws to prevent theft of creative content that was first codified in 1790 with the passage of the U.S. Constitution.