EU's Controversial Article 13: Considerations for the Blockchain Space

EU’s Controversial Article 13: Considerations for the Blockchain Space

The copyright law that detractors are saying may be used to censor swathes of the internet in Europe has just taken another procedural step forward, passing on a vote in the European Union’s Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) this morning, June 20th. If it continues to move forward, the article would also apparently bring to bear increased European regulatory pressure on blockchain projects over copyright infringements incidents.

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EFF Sounds the Alarm

Article 13, also known as the Copyright Directive, is part of Europe’s larger General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and was just greenlit in an EU JURI vote. The article isn’t the law of the land yet, still needing to go to a final vote in the European Parliament and surpass other member-state hurdles in the coming months, but it’s accordingly taken another tangible step closer to actualization.

And what would it do if it did go live? Effect stringent copyright rules, which, as The Verge jounralist James Vincent put it earlier, “would require that everything uploaded online in the EU is checked for copyright infringement. (Think of it like YouTube’s Content ID system but for the whole internet.)

Or, as the rights-focused Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) even more bitingly described the passing:

The Foundation has been sounding the alarm on the JURI vote louder and louder this week, previously arguing that Article 13 would create a so-called Censorship Machine that “threatens to wreck the internet itself.”

So, if these dire warnings portend what really is to come, the blockchain ecosystem will face considerations of both non-compliance and compliance.

A New Blockchain Antagonism?

If Article 13 does materialize, then blockchain projects will be at the precipice of either being at odds with the GDPR’s new rules or helping to facilitate them.

The copyright question is an interesting one regarding blockchain tech, insofar as blockchains are commonly used to anchor both public and private information. That means people can generally put what data they want to on-chain. We saw an example of that recently when a Korean peace accord was memorialized on the Ethereum blockchain.

But what about when copyrighted data is placed onto the blockchain, i.e. without vetting the data against Article 13’s copyright database?

For example, a recent heckler in the subreddit of the decentralized web storage play Oyster said they were reporting the project (to who or what wasn’t clear) because they had found copyrighted songs on its network. It’s a general antagonism that may increase upon Article 13 passing, and it’s an antagonism made more interesting in that blockchains are decentralized and thus the data they contain, even if not directly accessible to everyone, is distributed among network participants.

How the E.U. would even begin to approach that dynamic remains to be seen. The principled dissidence the blockchain ecosystem would raise against such a regulatory perspective would be inevitable.

On the flip side, the possible need for legal compliance would open inroads for certain cryptoverse projects. For instance, the Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) play VeChain has embraced helping European partners seek GDPR compliance, as VeChain COO Kevin Feng recently noted.

Other possibilities for compliance would seemingly be presented to blockchain oracle plays like ChainLink, as oracles are used to connect off-chain data to the blockchain. Merchants using such oracles could presumably use these innovations to vet blockchain uploads against the Copyright Directive’s outside database, though, of course, that’s just one hyper-focused potential use case for the tech.

Whatever ends up happening, it’s clear Article 13 has big implications in Europe and beyond.

What’s your take? How would the space respond to Article 13? Let us know what you think in the comments below. 

Images via Pixabay

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