Last weekend it was 30 years ago the Wall/iron curtain fell. I sat in front of the tv deep into the night watching German live tv. Having visited Eastern Germany just two years before it, I cried watching. I felt a strong urge to go there, but it wasn’t my place I also felt, not my personal history being made and I didn’t want to be a spectator in their midst. It was my neighbour’s, Rainer’s, history, who fled Eastern Germany with his parents as the iron curtain came up in ’61, while his sister stayed as she was freshly in love. Their lives separated for almost 3 decades, punctuated by his visits as often as he was allowed in. Their parents never being allowed back in. I remember in ’87 getting into an argument with an East-Berlin civil servant who told us the wall was there as a ‘Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart’ against the/us fascists in the West. It was so much cognitive dissonance for me that the Wall was supposedly there to keep me out, but yet here I was let in, just not them let out. A prison with the key on the inside. He couldn’t acknowledge my comment obviously, which I couldn’t in turn accept as a teenager. Now, as I’ve worked in various places and settings, where diplomacy is the only way forward, allowing others to save face, and room to manoeuvre to get somewhere, I know why there was no way at all I would have ‘won’ being right that day in East-Berlin city hall. Yet I was, empathy against bureaucracy is/should always be right.

Last weekend it was also 81 years ago that Nazis roamed the streets in Germany trashing Jewish owned businesses, homes and synagogues, and the murder of hundreds and internment in concentration camps of some thirty thousand German citizens of Jewish faith, Kristallnacht.

Oddly enough it is in the regions most affected by the separation of the Wall, Thuringia and Saxony, that the fascist echoes ring the loudest in Germany these days, where AfD. ‘alternative for Germany’ finds an electoral feeding ground. Or maybe it is not surprising, as societal complexity may make you yearn for the (imagined) simplicity of something that never was, exchange the simplicity of one authoritarian construct for another, or at least to blame someone, anyone, some mythical Other, for the baffling complexity around us.

All three of these things are important and current to my own life in different ways. As is the next.

Today I was in Brussels, a very complicated city in an equally complicated country in its own right. Whatever you can say about this place, and here too nationalist (or rather regionalist) sentiments boil, there is beauty in the elegance of dealing with otherness here. Where you are being spoken to in French or Dutch, and answer in a mixture of French, Dutch and English, or vice versa, and it’s all fine. Where the hotel barman tonight has a distinctive Flemish/Dutch name, Gert, yet is Walloon, and we both shrug and say, yeah Europe is complicated, and we appreciate each other’s efforts to be understood and embrace how our lands have been the crossroads of so many different things. It’s fitting that the EU has its institutions in both Brussels and Luxembourg, the two linguistically most confused/mixed cities in Europe.

E and I often remark to each other when we encounter situations like me and the barman above how ‘Europe works’. Last time I was here in Brussels, over dinner I sat next to a family of 4 who amongst themselves effortlessly conversed in Italian, Dutch and German, while fluently ordering in French. I texted to E that very phrase, “Europe works”, not for the first time. It’s our regular shorthand for what the EU has achieved, starting from co-governing the coal and steel works of 6 nations in 1951 so that none of us could build up a war machine without the others being able to stop it, to what the EU is now and how it plays out practically in the lives of us, our networks and the people we encounter across the continent. I intimately know the divisions national borders created within my own family, as well as the deep pain on all sides and resentment of World War II. Equally, I deeply know in my bones what we’ve all gained when freedom of movement kicked in 27 years ago (it’s a tangible sensation every time I personally or professionally do something where there before was a fence), as well as how it makes my professional life possible. Yet across the EU, which from my travels around the world I know to be a place of such enormous abundance (which is not a synonym for perfection nor utopia), resentment against those gains has built. While I recognise the things that feed into that resentment, all too often it smacks of Kristallnacht. It reeks. German rock-band BAP, singing in the Cologne dialect which in itself is a testament to the age-old connection between my own lands of origin and Germany (I can use may own Dutch dialect deep into Germany without issue of being understood, and Cologne’s dialect is akin to my own), sketches out the political pantomime of the copy-cat fascists perfectly. Their 1982 song is just as pertinent in 2019.

Trust your nose. Your nose points out the arsonists. You’ll know when et rüsch noh Kristallnaach, when it reeks of Kristallnacht.
My nose makes me an EU citizen.

Paper salesDoing this online is a neighbouring right in the new EU Copyright Directive. Photo by Alper, license CC BY

A move that surprises absolutely no one: Google won’t pay French publishers for snippets. France is the first EU country to transcribe the new EU Copyright Directive into law. This directive contains a new neighbouring right that says if you link to something with a snippet of that link’s content (e.g. a news link, with the first paragraph of the news item), you need to seek permission to do so, and that permission may come with a charge. This in the run-up to the directive was dubbed the ‘link tax’, although that falsely suggests it concerns any type of hyperlinking.
Google, not wanting to pay publishers for the right to use snippets with their links, will stop using snippets with those links.

reading the newspaperPhoto by Nicolas Alejandro, license CC BY

Ironically the link at the top is to a publisher, Axel Springer, that lobbied intensively for the EU Copyright Directive to contain this neighbouring right. Axel Springer is also why we knew with certainty up front this part of the Copyright Directive would fail. Years ago (2013) Germany, after lobbying by the same Axel Springer publishing house, created this same neighbouring right in their copyright law. Google refused to buy a license and stopped using snippets. Axel Springer saw its traffic from search results drop by 40%, others by 80%. They soon caved and provided Google with a free of charge license, to recoup some of the traffic to their sites.

read newsPhoto by CiaoHo, license CC BY

This element of the law failed in Germany, it failed in Spain in 2015 as well. Axel Springer far from being discouraged however touted this as proof that Google needed to be regulated, and continued lobbying for the same provision to be included in the EU Copyright Directive. With success, despite everyone else explaining how it wouldn’t work there either. It really comes at no surprise therefore that now the Copyright Directive will come into force in French law, it has the exact same effect. Wait for French publishers to not exercise their new neighbouring rights in 3, 2, 1…

Week 32/52.2012Photo by The JH Photography, license CC BY

News publishers have problems, I agree. Extorting anyone linking to them is no way to save their business model though (dropping toxic adtech however might actually help). It will simply mean less effective links to them, resulting in less traffic, in turn resulting in even less advert revenue for them (a loss exceeding any revenue they might hope to get from link snippet licenses). This does not demonstrate the monopoly of Google (though I don’t deny its real dominance), it demonstrates that you can’t have cake and eat it (determining how others link to you and get paid for it, but keep all your traffic as is), and it doesn’t change that news as a format is toast.

BELGIUMPhoto by Willy Verhulst, license CC BY ND

This is very interesting reasoning. Especially because I end up in a lot of conversations on the flip side of this: government client saying they’d ‘like to use alternatives to big tech’ but ‘can’t’ because none are visible to them. Also my sense of public procurement procedures is that they are currently incapable of detecting such options and lifting them to the front.

Looking at this way of investing, also means public institutions will more easily stay out of conflicts with e.g. market regulations.

Read Have you heard about Silicon Valley’s unpaid research and development department? It’s called the EU. (ar.al)

Today, the EU acts like an unpaid research and development department for Silicon Valley. We fund startups, which, if they’re successful, get sold to companies in Silicon Valley. If they fail, the European taxpayer foots the bill.
….
The EC must stop funding startups and invest in stayups instead. Invest €5M in ten stayups in each area where we want ethical alternatives. Unlike a startup, when stayups are successful, they don’t exit. They can’t get bought by Google or Facebook. They remain sustainable European not-for-profits working to deliver technology as a social good.

At the end of March the European Commission (EC) has announced it is adopting the Creative Commons By Attribution license as its standard license.

The CC-BY license will be used for videos and photos, studies published in peer-reviewed journals, data and visualisations on the EU open data portal and documents published on EU websites.

Re-use of EC material has been possible since 2006 (and rephrased in 2011), but in practice it wasn’t always clear to potential re-users what was allowed and what wasn’t.
While re-use and attribution is part of the EC’s copyright notice, it is likely re-users are discouraged by the copyright claim above it, and missing the permissions underneath it:


Current default copyright notice on EC websites, to be exchanged for a CC-BY license

In contrast adding the Creative Commons By Attribution license sends a clear message about permissions that are granted up-front without the need for a re-user to seek consent: any re-use is permitted, including commercial re-use, provided the EC is attributed as its source, and provided re-use forms or alterations don’t suggest they are endorsed by or coming from the EC.


The clarity that a Creative Commons license provides

(full disclosure: I am a board member of Open Nederland, the Dutch Creative Commons chapter)

As of today it is final: the new EU copyright directive has been adopted (ht Julia Reda). I am pleased to see my government voted against, as it has in earlier stages, and as my MEPs did. Sadly it hasn’t been enough to cut Article 11 and 13, despite the mountain of evidence and protests against both articles. It is interesting and odd to see both Spain and Germany vote in favour, given the failure of their respective laws on which Article 11 is based, and the German government coalition parties stated position of being against content filters (i.e. Article 13).

Over the next two years it is important to track the legislative efforts in Member States implementing this Directive. Countries that voted against or abstained will try to find the most meaningless implementation of both Articles 11 and 13, and will be emphasising the useful bits in other parts of the Directive I suspect, while subjected to intense lobbying efforts both for and against. The resulting differences in interpretation across MS will be of interest. Also looking forward to following the court challenges that will undoubtedly result.

In the mean time, you as an internet-citizen have two more years to build and extend your path away from the silos where Article 11 and 13 will be an obstacle to you. Run your own stuff, decentralise and federate. Walkaway from the big platforms. But most of all, interact with creators and makers directly. Both when it comes to re-using or building on their creations, as when it comes to supporting them. Article 11 and 13 will not bring any creator any new revenue, dominant entertainment industry mediators are the ones set to profit from rent seeking. Vote with your feet and wallet.