What is Article 13?
Article 13 is part of new EU copyright legislation that requires digital services to implement a copyright filter that checks all uploads against known copyrighted works. Anything that matches an existing copyrighted work is censored.
How will Article 13 affect Ecommerce?
On a very basic level Article 13 won’t affect the day-to-day of your Shopify ecommerce store.
It will become problematic for large ecommerce platforms like eBay and Etsy, who will have to spend millions on copyright filtering tools. It will increase the administrative costs of setting up a new ecommerce platform, which means that existing ecommerce giants (Shopify, Magento, Amazon, eBay) who already have massive budgets and investors won’t find themselves in competition with new up-start ecommerce platforms.
YouTube Copyright ID
Google implemented a similar anti-copyright strategy on YouTube at great expense.
No one likes it - it blocks all sorts of legitimate material whilst also missing material that blatantly infringes on copyright. Google is one of the leading innovators in internet technology, and even they haven’t been able to get this right.
The Ecommerce Community
There is a large community of merchants using self-service ecommerce platforms (ie. Bigcommerce, Shopify and Woocommerce) to make quick cash. These retailers aren’t doing anything specifically wrong, but there is a lot of competition and a large potential to make a lot of money.
The threat is that these merchants could use whatever methods they can to narrow the competition by having their rivals' content downranked or removed entirely.
‘Then there's staffing up the abuse team: experience with these self-serve platforms shows us that they attract a minority of abusive/immoral actors who abuse whatever mechanisms are at hand to get their rivals downranked or removed -- imagine if you could get any ecommerce article banned from every platform by making spurious claims to the copyrights in it.’
-Cory Doctorow, Technology Activist
Imagine if you had a particularly strong blog article that pointed a great deal of converting traffic to your website - under Article 13, unscrupulous competitors could get that post banned from every platform by making false copyright claims against it.
This is copyfraud.
You might think that you could just go to your service provider and get it reversed, but platforms tend to do whatever they can to avoid legal action. It can be simpler for them to remove the content just to be on the safe side.
This is potentially the biggest area that will be hit by new copyright legislation. Resellers.
‘There are also the effects on secondary markets: reselling books, t-shirts, DVDs, or anything else whose product shot features a (lawfully reproducible, but filter-activating) copyrighted image.’
If the process of removing copyrighted content from the internet is automated how will the automated filter know if you are re-selling something?
Thousands of people are licensed to sell t-shirts with the Rolling Stones logo on, but an automated filter isn’t going to stop and ask if you have the right to sell it. The same goes for books, DVDs, or anything else where the product photo features copyrighted imagery.
In ecommerce, everyone understands the value of paid ads.
It’s how you get your products in front of a digital audience.
Many digital publications and news sources are going to struggle in the wake of Article 13. The simple cost of installing sophisticated filters on a site is going to be cripplingly expensive.
So advertising costs are going to go up.
Then, your adverts might get arbitrarily blocked anyway, because the filter recognises your ad as copyrighted imagery on someone else’s website.
The potential for Article 13 to further solidify the position of existing ecommerce giants is great. These businesses have resource that allows them to manage the expense. This may drive smaller marketplaces away, because they just won’t have the resource to implement filters.
This could reduce the pool of third party marketplaces like Etsy, eBay and Amazon, forcing more independent merchants to use these platforms.
Should you be concerned about Article 13?
Article 13 is definitely something to keep your eye on, but we can’t really do anything about it now. It's still going through the legal processes, and details have yet to be finalised. And then the real questions will be asked about how this will be implemented and controlled.
Whether the potential impact of this legislation will actually be realised is yet to be seen. Implementing internet wide copyright filters is going to be difficult, and the filters we already have (i.e. YouTube) are so inaccurate that people might not even bother.
This legislation would have a massive impact on the internet as we know it, but with these changes being so difficult to enforce and expensive to implement, this could end up being one of those things that people largely ignore.