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The European Commission is preparing an attack on the hyperlink (juliareda.eu)
421 points by jsnathan on Nov 7, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 192 comments

I think I've given up on sane legislation with regards to technology.

Not only does technology advance much faster than law, but law makers are almost by definition two generations behind the generation that actually is native to the technological change in question. It's not possible to win in that situation.

You're asking someone whose paradigm of video was formed by the advent of color TV, to understand the cultural and technological consequences of popcorn time. It's like the tech problems of WWI: generals who only knew cavalry rushes continued ordering i calvary rushes, even against machine gun fire and even against staggering numbers of dead.

So I think I give up now. Technological issues may as well ignore the legal framework, because the legal framework ignores the technological issues. If we stop fighting, the rules will get so ridiculous as to he openly impossible to satisfy, offering industries the choice to either ignore them, or go out of business. In the end this stuff doesn't strangle the open sourcers or the hacker culture... It only strangles big industry, the people pay the legislators' paychecks. So fuck em. Legislators can figure it out when it hits their tax receipts.

While I agree with your point, the history buff in me has to point out that the WWI metaphor was inaccurate. World War One was a war of scale that was exponentially larger then previous conflicts. Tactics advanced rapidly and beyond 1914/1915 generals had adapted themselves in a myriad of ways.

The largest example of this however was away from the battlefield. As Napoleon Bonaparte said "An army runs on its stomach", and the explosion of modern military logistics that took place in WWI was nothing short of miraculous. Millions of men, food, supplies, armaments, had to be shuffled back and forth from France, to Russia, and back to France again, in ways that had never been conceived before.

One reason I believe this rapid advancement was possible was because leaders were CONSTANTLY replaced if their performance suffered. This forced new, and occasionally younger (but mostly old), officers to adapt or quickly lose their rank.

I think this yields some hope in modern times, we don't necessarily need better representatives, just new ones, constantly, until they get it right.

>Millions of men, food, supplies, armaments, had to be shuffled back and forth from France, to Russia, and back to France again, in ways that had never been conceived before.

And not only that, but the bulk of it was still being done with horse and carriages.

>In the end this stuff doesn't strangle the open sourcers or the hacker culture... It only strangles big industry, the people pay the legislators' paychecks.

Actually, you have it exactly backwards. Big corporation have teams of lawyers that will allow them to navigate this legal thicket. But your average open-source project, or blog? The first scary legal letter they get, asking for a six-to-seven figure amount for copyright infringement, will cause them to shut down. As far as I can tell, this law is a huge threat to any free-speech that threatens corporate interests, because the moment you link to the thing you're criticizing, you can be sued for thousands to millions, depending on how many people (allegedly) clicked.

Under this legal regime, making it to the front page of Hacker News would be a literal kiss of death to almost organization that offends corporate interests. Maybe the EFF could handle the legal wrangling to prove that its links were "fair use", or whatever. Precious few others would be able to.

Under this legal regime, making it to the front page of Hacker News would be a literal kiss of death to almost organization that offends corporate interests.

Perhaps I've misunderstood, but it seems to me that under this legal regime, an organization that offends corporate interests making it to the front page of HN would be the kiss of death to HN. The danger is that the mere act of linking to something controversial becomes guilt by association, and since in general someone who links to another site doesn't control the content on that other site, anyone can become guilty of whatever crimes result literally without having done anything wrong (beyond not constantly legally reviewing the content of every site they link to and removing links in real time in the event of any potential problem).

I don't know the specifics of the proposal, but I imagine that HN would be safe, unless the blog post author got annoyed at making it to the front page.

Your point, however, is a good one. This legal framework would kill off Reddit, Hacker News, and all the other link aggregators out there. If linking to copyrighted material without permission counts as copyright infringement, then linking to anything, anywhere becomes a very dangerous act. It'd probably also hurt Twitter and Facebook badly (no more linking to viral videos or funny images).

"It only strangles big industry" Actually it helps the big industry as the small business owner are struggling. For example the VAT MOSS rule. Amazon, Google or Apple will not have any problem to fulfill this law. A small company selling software to EU customer will not be able to handle the bureaucratic effort.

Will cheap services pop up which help small companies fulfill MOSS requirements while not being an onerous burden?

Not in EU; don't know anything. What stops people from simply contracting or incorporating in another country like, say, Panama or something, and billing from there? Then VAT would be out of scope wouldn't it?

That's not how the law is meant to work. The law is supposed to "force" overseas companies to collect VAT on behalf of customers inside the EU.

So even in Panama your opinions are "sorry you're in the EU I can't sell to you" or you're supposed to collect the VAT. At present I don't believe they have tried to enforce it through any court yet. So I'm unsure how that would play out.

You're right about the outcomes, but ignoring the laws would disproportionately hurt small businesses and the open sourcers and hackers you talk about.

Laws are tools paid for and created by large entities to cement their positions. Ignoring laws means giving ridiculously powerful legal tools to big companies and governments to prosecute the smaller groups who can't defend themselves.

No, mostly business. Those things are typically not criminal so as far as open source goes for the sake of open source, it's easy to ignore

Laws are lobbied by industries. In the end it will be the combined interest of several industries, not technologists, who settle this.

"It only strangles big industry..."

No, big industry will say how they would prefer this to roll. Currently the publishing houses seem to hold the upper hand. Industry players percieve this as a way to funnel Google and Facebook profits to dying industries in europe. Instead of innovating the publishing houses fight death through supportive legislation.

"law makers are almost by definition two generations behind the generation that actually is native to the technological change in question"

This 1 min video clip from a UK comedy show is over 30 years old. But it captures this sentiment perfectly


Another problem is that when the legal system first encounters new technology, and is the most ignorant and unprepared for it, it makes that decision a "precedent" that later cases are expected to follow.

I choose to be an optimist. Codification takes time. Patience.

IANAL, so my understanding is naive (at best): law is about striking a balance.

So long as technological progress continues to rearrange society, it'll be a while before things settle down, thereby giving people sufficient time and experience figure out a new acceptable balance.

I probably misremember (or just made up) this factoid: It took Roman's 400 years to codify their laws. So I think we're doing pretty good.


Finally! An opportunity to say something positive about representative democracies! The opportunities to do so are rather meager these days, it seems, what with all the talk about their failings and lackings, especially when compared to direct democracy, which is becoming more and more possible every day. This is a tailor made case for representative democracy.

To all the comments speaking to the shortcomings of their legislators and how those shortcomings translate to suboptimal or even outright harmful laws, please consider two other options. Direct democracy and laissez-faire /libertarianism /anarchy.

First, consider direct democracy. By opening the legislative process to every eligible citizen, there is little chance the voting base will become more knowledgeable as to the issues of technology it will be voting on. It will in all probability become less knowledgeable, on par. Direct democracy increases the cognitive load on the legislator by orders of magnitude. By not having professional legislators each citizen must become, in addition to already being a productive member of the work force keeping their skills sharp and keeping abreast of advancements in their field, being a responsible, good member of their social circles, oh, and having a personal life, they must now both make decisions as to when they should devote resources to their legislative duties, given there will always be something up for vote, they must also devote resources deciding how they will vote. So, direct democracy not only creates a larger pool of non expert technology legislators but it also creates a framework in which those new legislators are less capable to devote the appropriate resources to legislate effectively.

Now consider the laissez-faire case. This one is easy, and for a contemporary case study one just needs to look at the recently drafted TPP language on restrictions on States regarding OSS. Laissez-faire simply settles in whatever state is conducive to the capabilities and sensibilities of the most fit entity given the initial state of the environment and its constituents. If the environment is most conducive to an entity which is benevolent and intelligent, awesome. If it is conducive to the successful outcome of a self interested, profit motive driven entity, awesome or not, that is the outcome in that case. It is amoral. No judgement. Just outcome.

The case for representative democracy then follows rather nicely, for once. Representative democracy creates a specialized space for crafting legislation where the citizens concerned about a given piece of legislation can appeal to the legislators to devote more resources to that particular issue, over other issues. Additionally they can provide additional resources to the legislators on a case by case basis to help them legislate, which may come in the form of financial assistance, access to relevant case or field studies, or experts in the domain. The non legislative citizens can then still go on about their lives, and the legislators can craft better quality legislation. Lobbying would be a form of this activity, but one in which the non legislative party is already decided as to how the legislation should look in its finished form, rather than simply trying to inform better legislation.

Two other benefits of representative democracy. The process inserts safety-switches in the form of, for example, checks and balances (only possible when the legislature is split in to different bodies, does not work when the whole legisture is involved in every part of the process), vetoes and recalls (same thing here), or the formalized process itself, which might require drafting, review, certification, or cooling-off/reflection periods.

All of which I mention to say that, sure, our "legislators" proper have had some pretty dumb moments recently while discharging their duties, but let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. They are only a small part of our law making apparatus. Lobbyists have certainly been providing their full energy. The process itself, while never perfect, has certainly done well for its constituents over an extended historical period, especially compared to other experiments; part of the beauty of the currently implemented process is its ability to improve and broaden the scope of its constituency, which should certainly continue. And there are some examples of grass roots activity influencing the dialogue and end-product.

As technology experts, throwing our support and resources behind the entire process, in a holistic fashion, providing expertise, opening up operations to legislators and citizens so they can familiarize themselves with often mysterious domains, providing a forumn for dialogues surrounding the issues, etc, this, to me at least, seems like a promising way forward, as opposed to withdrawing from the process all together and assuming everthing will sort itself out to one's personal liking. Not every issue will be settled in a manner that will satisfy each citizen every time. But that is the trade off one makes for being part of a larger community which shares most, but not necessarily each of their interests and priorities with the other members of their community. On balance though, we should all be better off if everyone engages and basic rights are respected.

So, yeah, call you Senator or Representative today. :)

No market (as libertarians understand markets) has ever emerged in all of history the way libertarians believe they do. All markets emerge in the context of state actors, the earliest being warlords that capture gold and silver, strike coin with their visage to pay their soldiers and demand the peasantry to pay taxes in said coin. Markets follow directly from that. They require states to function for no other reason to have police protection over transactions. When you have too much control from a police state, markets suffer. When you have too little, markets suffer (or melt away actually). You will have to do better than this.

I must correct you about one thing. Gold/silver wasn't used until fairly recently - 15th century IIRC and for a lot of the time the value of the coin was in no way correlated to the metal it was printed on. Gold caught on in a time of market crisis because the rulers thought that telling people that the metal itself was valuable it would give them more confidence in the currency. Also it's convenient for currency because it's both absolutely useless and rare (hard to counterfeit).

Your off by at least 2,000 years as Rome for example used gold coins. 200BCE examples on this page : https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_currency. And older gold coins dating back to 600BCE showed up in turkey.

Currency was likely directly created as tax payments. There are several examples where some unit of currency was basicly X food for Y time.

Coin specie was used as early as 700 BC in the west (Mycenaean Greece). There is evidence that the Chinese minted coin as early as 12th century BC.

Pure direct democracy, sure. But Switzerland is has a 'pause' from when the referendum collects signatures to when it actually happens. This gives the 'hive-mind' time to calm and to think more rationally over emotionally. Also, the requirement to physically go to the voting stations acts as a good disincentive for internet viral uproar as they can't make snap decisions. Although, some Cantons are moving towards vote-by-post, but that's still not as bad as what internet voting would be.

IMO, direct democracy to throw out laws and to also get the government to NOT do something (ie: invade a country) I'm in favor for. Though, direct democracy to vote through laws would require stronger restrictions (the law has to be drafted by elected politicians, for example).

But we do need some form of direct democracy because politicians are easily paid for and certainly don't represent the population (at least, here, in the UK).

I appreciate your comment. Especially paragraph two. Those cases sounds like an especially promising application of direct democracy. I'd be interested to hear if such a system has been implemented anywhere? California, and many other states have similar 'pause' mechanisms built into their 'ballot proposition' system. In the early years it still caused some huge budget issues, since there was a disconnect between it and the legislature's legal budget requirements. It has also been critiqued, very heavily, for being a tool used primarily by those that can afford to get an initiative to the ballot and then fund the initiative's campaign. I read a decent book on the topic in my undergraduate years, "Democracy Derailed" by David S. Broder. A good primer, but I'm sure there are others/better out there. A quick search of Amazon books returns many results. I still take issue with drawing the conclusion that direct democracy is a panacea to the ill of corrupt or ignorant politicians. I've worked in both local and state government, and I saw the same mix of smart, ignorant, passionate, petty, morally guided, morally bankrupt, misguided, misunderstood, enthusiastic, apathetic, hard working, leeching, etc people that I see in non-political, non-governmental circles. Simply enlarging the number of 'legislators' so that more of the population being governed is voting on each law passed does not seem to solve the problems we are having. I do love the idea of direct democracy as a veto or recall mechanism. I actually think it's brilliant. If it was built into the existing election cycle it would be so easy to implement. One possible implementation: Any law passed as of or since the previous year's November general election is automatically up for recal, and is recalled if some super-majority votes to have it recalled. Laws older than a year can be voted to appear on the next general election ballot for recal with a simple majority. Any law which is recalled will go directly to the floor of the both the House and Senate where legislators have the opportunity to ammend the law; if the House and Senate can agree on an ammended version of the law within 30 days from the date of the certification of the instigating election the law will go back to the ballot for a special general election to be held 60 days after the certifying of the ballots from the instigating election. That would be awesome. Someone should make that a thing.

The problem is not Direct democracy or laissez-faire. The problem is that EU laws are made by lobbyist.


You have been writing quite a lot and I did read all. Your problem is that you assume "the EU ... proper have had some pretty dumb moments". But those laws are not dumb. They are in the interest of some mighty lobbies. That means they will not improve over time because the laws makers and the people paying those are ok with them.

From your comment: "The problem is not Direct democracy or laissez-faire. The problem is that EU laws are made by lobbyist."

Direct Democracy and laissez faire were not put forth as problems. Neither were they put forth as solutions. They were put forth simply as "two other options" for the purpose of comparison with representative democracy. There are many other possible frameworks for governance. Theocracy, for instance. The two I chose where mentioned simply to provide a point of reference to discuss the different issues a society confronts when creating a legal framework. So, based on your comment stating that the "problem is not Direct democracy or laissez-faire", I assumed you understood my comment to argue that the those where the problem, which it did not.

My comment did, however, make arguments on behalf of a representative form of governance to the effect that, it allows its citizens to engage in the process. The one form of engagement which I explicitly mentioned was lobbying, stating that lobbying, as commonly understood, entails engaging so as to guide the legislative process in a manner in which directs the process toward an end product that the lobbyist has already decided is the optimal final state of the legislation. I also made the argument that there are other activities in which non-legislators citizens could engage in activities that would not be included under the umbrella of those termed "lobbying". So, to say, "That means they will not improve over time because the laws makers and the people paying those are ok with them," you did not seem to address any of these other, non-"lobbyist" activities. And so, by not addressing them but still coming to a conclusion ("That means...") it just kinda seems like you didn't read or understand my entire comment.

But please, cherry pick which portions of my comment (which I tried to make constructive, well thought out, and upbeat) to critique, while basing at least some of your argument's authority on the fact that you're aware that I've commented elsewhere, about unrelated issues, here on HN. That's totally constructive.

"And it's clear: When, like that, the number of subscribers dramatically declines, young people no longer subscribe to newspapers as my generation did, when the number of papers sold at newsstands declines, when the classified ads for the labour market, for used cars and for apartments decline because it all becomes an online service then newspapers are in existential danger. One can either accept that, or act now – in five years it would be too late."

I say, let them die. Most newspapers are a joke. I don't subscribe to them because it's actually a way to become misinformed about any specific topic. Or at least that's what I see in their take of any topic I know profoundly.

There are alternatives. Reader-supported news like LWN seem to be working. I get most of my content from topic specific websites, blogs, and mail lists.

About the classified ads. Why is that a problem at all?

"Maybe Google will only accept an European provision, accept European instruments because then, if needed, via the competition law and the European Commissioner for Competition measures, penalties and legal action in case of breach of European rules are possible"

Transcription -> Steal.

So we need to go through the legalese in detail and make new definitions of slightly modified original concepts so that the law can't be applied to them anymore - like what the pharma industry does with rebranding old medicine by changing the formula slightly. Ideally, that should also be polymorphic in nature, i.e. the definition/implementation could be changed easily algorithmically. Unless there is some radical change to the law making it algorithmic, it would always be trailing a few years behind.

As an EU citizen, it's mind-boggling to see the sheer stupidity of our politicians in the past 2-3 years...

I believe it is more incompetence, lack of technology understanding and / or complete ignorance. You can't explain otherwise how a person like Oettinger can be put in charge of such an important part of the economy.

I'm still waiting when they suggest that airline pilots can be replaced with bus drivers to stop them going on strike / industrial action - it's called an Airbus so there shouldn't be much difference, after all it has bus in the name.

He is a shame for his country. Never heard a man speaking english so badly when thats his job.

And he never said anything good. He was one of the worst minister of the state i'm living in. Clearly only one guy after him was worse.

He is totally stupid and he and his successor managed it that people started to vote other parties on state votes, after over 50 years the CDU dropped out of the state cabinet.

And now here is the fun fact. Most german politicians inside the EU are politicians nobody wanted in the foreign country. The problem is even if they do completely bad things these politics never needed to fear about any judges against them.

> And now here is the fun fact. Most german politicians inside the EU are politicians nobody wanted in the foreign country.

That's funny, it's exactly the same, here, in France!

In Ireland, too. It's essentially where you send either a complete idiot, or someone who threatens you politically, to retire.

They get lots of money, and you get rid of them. Sure, the Council pretty much agree with all commission proposed laws anyway, so the only risk is a media one.

Ireland's pretty bad, recently as MEPs we've had legalize-weed-druid, Ireland's Michelle Bachman, and far to many Sinn Feiners lately.

The Danish political drama 'Borgen' had this too, basically EU as political exile ... so possibly Denmark too

I smell intent. Stupid guy with no expertise whatsoever will be much easier to manipulate into stupid bullshit like this over lobsters and a glass of wine. He might even fool himself into thinking he's doing good! And will probably not get why we can't decide if we want to get upset, or laugh him out of the room...

When I worked in air transport we called passenger planes "pressurised buses"

Ha! Try being a US citizen! In true 'American style', we are the best at stupid politicians

It's really not a competition.

This is one of the reasons why the IT industry in the EU is so weak when compared to the US.

As a citizen of an EU state I can't help but feel that we are here governed by complete morons.

More regulation begets more regulation. You can't expect bureaucrats who have been given authority over something to sit back and decide when they're done regulating.

I wouldn't totally blame the bureaucrats here, either. They're sort of like sysadmins: people only pay attention to them when something bad is happening, and that attention is rarely positive. Whereas when things are going well, nobody says, "Thank goodness for the bureaucrats that keep things running smoothly."

Their incentives are mostly toward over-regulating. If they over-regulate, they mainly harm invisible potential improvements. Whereas if they under-regulate, the big, obvious failures mean they get in a lot of hot water.

VAT MOSS did not only harm invisible potential improvements. It makes thousands of small business economically unviable. Same will be true for the new Oettinger law.

To be honest, VAT MOSS was introduced because large (American) companies were gaming the system by routing sales through Luxembourg to avoid significant amounts of VAT.

It is nothing more than a counter tax avoidance measure.

That does not make this stupid law any better. They could have forced Luxembourg to adapt there laws to a more common standard. They could have made an exemption for small amounts.

The EU generally doesn't involve itself in the running of individual member states. They create directives that need to be translated to local law, but member states are free to do so as they wish within a certain framework.

As far as I know, they don't force minimum tax rates - that's a freedom of a member state. That's also why you pay 33% corporate tax in Belgium and 5% in Malta.

The EU has set the minimum standard VAT rate as 15%.

It is nothing more than a counter tax avoidance measure.

Unfortunately, it is something more than a counter tax avoidance measure, because it has caused vast collateral damage. It's a huge administrative burden that literally makes many micro-businesses unviable, and it imposes prohibitive overheads on slightly larger businesses that are just getting going.

To add insult to injury, it's also impossible in practice to comply with the rules fully even if you make a good faith effort, unless you have a specialist VAT accountant's level understanding of each EU member state's tax system. Obviously no business except for large multinationals actually has this level of understanding available to it.

What is particularly appalling in this case is that the authorities who spent all that time working on the new rules didn't even realise all those smaller businesses existed until the very end. A huge campaign against the new measures was started with just weeks to go. Most of the authorities across all levels of government pointed to years of discussions, said they consulted earlier, and asked why the small businesses didn't say anything before. It didn't even occur to them that the microbusinesses didn't know, because no-one had thought to contact them, unlike larger businesses with well-established VAT management, and because someone running a £500/year side business from their kitchen table to fund their kids' christmas presents might not be following the intricate details of EU tax negotiations.

The icing on the cake is the often dysfunctional systems put in place to administer the new systems, which have made it very clear that even the national tax authorities often don't know what they're doing. Case in point: Multiple national tax authorities have already sent waves of wildly incorrect and extremely hostile demands for payment of supposedly unpaid VAT to small businesses in other countries.

Imagine how you'd feel if you spent a year building up a side business, then one morning you woke up to a demand for over a million Euros, far more money than you'd ever made in your year of trading, saying if you didn't pay faster than you could sensibly get legal or tax advice then you'd be taken to court without further notice, inevitably killing your business.

This is the reality when the EU gets to play with legal and tax rules but the people making the rules fail to understand the basic nature of how those rules will affect smaller businesses or individual citizens who aren't over there playing the games with the politicians. It's a scary prospect, and the way forward some of the EU bureaucrats see for the Internet and for intellectual property as we're discussing today seems many times worse than the short-sightedness they showed with the VAT mess a year ago.

To be honest VAT MOSS was introduced just for the the sake of introducing it, large retailers will find a way to avoid paying taxes small businesses wont.

Germany has already made statements that it will not allow other EU members to audit and collect VAT from German companies.

I'm happy that the response to this has finally changed I got downvoted to hell when commenting on the VAT changes when news just started breaking out almost 2 years ago saying that it will kill small businesses and now after the changes were implemented people actually started to see that it have.

The system completely ignores deferential VAT rates for different items in different countries, it forces businesses to register for VAT regardless if they are VAT exempt (e.g. small businesses in the UK with under 100K in yearly revenue) and it forces them to implement a "reliable system to verify the actual point of consumption of your goods and services" without actually putting in criteria on what is reliable or how you should verify the source of consumption if the first place.

"If I use a German bank card to order and item from the UK to Spain where should the VAT be collected?" To this date I haven't received an actual consistent answer or even a consistent thought process to evaluate this. And this is the most simple scenario which can be easily made more complicated like ordering an item from Germany with German payment details to be shipped to Spain from the UK, ordering an item with German payment details from the UK while you are in Spain, ordering an item from the UK with German payment details while you are in the airport in Norway, or doing the same while you are outside of the EU completely.

And these aren't complicated scenarios they things happen all the time the amount of times I had to order something I need from Amazon in the EU to myself while being in another country is ridiculous sometimes I'll order something from Amazon UK to my UK home while I'm away, sometimes I'll order from Amazon to be delivered to some country in the EU, some time if I'll need something down the line in the trip I might order it from country a to country c while being in country b.

And while Amazon could easily deal with this because they have an army of lawyers and tax advisers that will find them all the loopholes and legal justifications to continue to do what ever the frack they want, normal businesses won't be able to coupe with these types of decisions.

So far this seems to actually benefit Amazon the most because all of the people that I know that operated their own online stores for various goods and services have actually moved their store exclusively to Amazon and the likes even when they can charge a commission in the double digits just because it was the only way for them to be able to "ignore" the new tax regulations.

I had to stop working on a website which was soon to launch when I learned about VAT MOSS. Although, I was thinking whether a faucet-style (india/russia/romania workers) website could pay people $N per email to send the digital good/service manually. Then that should bypass the VAT MOSS legislation, right? Although, they do have plans to apply VAT MOSS to physical goods/services in 2016. It's a pain in the ass.

It might be one of the reasons but not one of the biggest imho. The risk avoiding nature we seem to have picked up, the shame in failure (bankruptcy in the EU is often a life altering disgrace) and the draw towards comfort, free time and family life over making a billion Euro company seem to be bigger drivers as I see it.

Cookie law, VAT MOSS, Abmahnungen and now the Öttinger tax. Even if you don't care about the risk, you would be stupid to found a startup in a EU country.

All bad things but also they brought in strong privacy protections, held national governments to account for privacy invasions, have broadly stronger environment and safety legislation that most other regions.

The EU isn't all good or all bad it's just huge.

"strong privacy protections ..", what do you mean? The Cookie law?

"held national governments to account for privacy invasions"? They are sending our data to the US (e.g. data for airline passengers).

"have broadly stronger environment and safety legislation" Maybe on paper, the EU agencies did know for years that VW (and other EU car producer) did cheat.

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/new... (ruled default filters where illegal)

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_STATEMENT-15-5654_en.ht... (ECJ overruled blanket Data Retention).

http://www.wsj.com/articles/eu-court-strikes-down-trans-atla... (safe harbour struck down).

Specific instances show there are problems but all large scale human systems are messy.

Yeah the EU isn't perfect but nothing is, I'd sooner my country (the UK) was in it than not though.

The trouble is, the UK government is demonstrably willing to ignore EU rules it doesn't like, and there is nothing any normal citizen affected by that can do about it. Airport body scanners, all the Internet surveillance stuff... For our recent authoritarian governments, national security paranoia seems to trump privacy concerns every time, and blatantly ignoring European rulings to the contrary appears to be standard procedure at the moment.

I haven't made up my mind yet about whether we're better off in the EU than out. It's obviously a complicated question. But something that is a big factor in favour of leaving is that there is so much one-sided co-operation: the EU seems to be used as a convenient excuse to justify unpopular rules that might cause political problems at home, because we "have to comply with the EU directives" or some such, yet apparently we have no trouble not complying when the EU rules are less convenient.

Completely agree, the other thing the EU doesn't do well is sell the benefits, there are some real ones but all you ever see is some crazy story in the media about bananas or something equally asinine.

Are Abmahnungen still a big issue in Germany? I remember being constantly furious about it when I lived there. I'm glad I had completely forgotten those ever existed.

What's Abmahnungen?

He's probably talking about the following:

If you torrent for example a copyrighted mp3 and you are not leeching, you are actively uploading the file and sharing it with others.

And a lot of lawyers are now actively tracking peer-to-peer networks/torrents to see who is sharing the file. They then send out a "Abmahnung" and charge the user a few hundred euros.

Ah yep, yeah I've heard about the profitable business of extorting torrenters. Germans just use American torrent boxes and VPNs.

All governments protect incumbent players with large enough vested interests - if they yell loud enough. I think you view US through rose tinted glasses - go ask Elon Musk what he thinks of the laws protecting car dealerships there.

Or what Travis Kalanick thinks of taxi regulations.

How are EU regulations holding EU IT industry back?

E.g. you want to sell digital goods in the EU? Check VAT MOSS. You can't find a EU law which will be a show stopper for you? No problem, there will be a national law which kills your business idea.

VAT MOSS is annoying, but to say it's a show stopper is quite excessive. Yes, I too would prefer not to have to deal with all the admin stuff, but technically, US companies are also required to register for VAT in the EU (if they're selling to EU customers and/or businesses). Most just don't.

"Yes, I too would prefer not to have to deal with all the admin stuff,.." You opened a VAT MOSS account in all 28 EU member states? Really?

>You opened a VAT MOSS account in all 28 EU member states?

No, but my payment processor did.

Who's your payment processor? At least stripe seems to not offer much help here except source the credit card to a country of origin

I personally use Fastspring. (Legally the sales are handled by Fastspring and I invoice them so they are the only party I have to care about when it comes to VAT).

Paddle and Fastspring are two that handle VAT collection and remittance.

no different to 52 different state sales tax's

> no different to 52 different state sales tax's

so... I don't know anything about the EU law we're talking about, but I do know a bit about US sales tax.

First, if I sell a service, not a physical product, my understanding is that I don't pay sales tax at all. Next, even if I am selling physical product, I only need to worry about sales tax in the state in which I do business. In my case, California (and maybe Washington, as I have a contractor there.)

But really, it's a non-issue, because I'm selling a service not a product.

Now, if I was selling a product, it is more complex than it sounds. Yes, as the business, I don't worry about taxes in the states where I don't have a presence, but those customers are expected to file a 'use tax' - many people don't, and some businesses take advantage of this, for example, provantage will ship my supermicro crap from California to Ohio or some other midwestern state, then back to me, so that I don't have to pay them sales tax. It's super irritating, because I pay my use tax, so it's extra accounting work for me, and it is extra shipping money and time. I usually end up getting the provantage price and sending it to my local supermicro re-seller (kingstarusa) and buying from them afte rthey price match. But the point being that the selling company doesn't worry about sales tax if they ship a physical product to a state they don't have a presence in. That's the recipient's problem to sort out (or ignore)

But that's not really the complexity of the US sales tax system. The complexity is that within the states you do business, every county has a different sales tax. And I'm supposed to figure out what county you are in and calculate your tax. (fortunately, I don't have to pay each county; I pay the state board of equalization) - it's a pain in the ass. you need to buy a special database, because counties don't line up with zipcodes always, and yadayadayada. It's doable, just not fun. But I bet that's more complex than calculating a different vat for each EU country, though actually paying each EU country might be a bigger pain in the ass. Seems like something that could be outsourced to your payment provider, though.

(note, this information about state sales tax is about a decade out of date; that's about as long as it has been since I sold physical goods. Point being that it's both more and less complex than you imply.)

Sales tax varies by county in some (most?) states.

I know and by city too US sales tax makes VAT in the EU look simple

As long as you bill/invoice the correct amount (i.e. the correct VAT rate for each member state), a good accountant will take care of the rest.

Good accountant a small business can't afford to hire. You make a product, you want to sell it. You have no idea where your customers are going to come from or if anyone buys the product in the first place. You have to comply with this madness from day one though.

Oh, and many payment processors won't give you necessary information to comply anyway. You need 2 pieces of evidence from every transaction (address, IP the purchase is made from for example) and you often don't have access to that information.

It's just typical "we know many small business won't be able to comply and we are not going to go after them for now but there will always be something if we need to" kind of thing.

You need 2 pieces of evidence from every transaction

You need 2 pieces of evidence that agree from every transaction, which is a significantly harder standard to meet.

For now, IP address is being accepted as one of them. However, most estimates seem to put geolocation as accurate only for about 90% of checks, and even if it's accurate, the information you'll get back typically won't be enough to determine which rules to apply in member states that have regional variations in their VAT rules.

It's basically impossible to comply properly with the current rules using a fully automated system, and therefore basically everyone trading on-line is risking compliance issues because you can't avoid them. The whole thing is kind of a joke, except for the not-so-funny part where your number comes up and you get business-destroying levels of overhead dealing with the audit.

Small problems that bureaucrats did not think about:

- the big companies they intended to hit have the resources to deal with the problem, the smaller onces do not.

- There are such things as proxy servers and VPNs.

- many online B2C transactions within the EU are for amounts < 5 euro, the overhead of paying VAT for a single customer from say Slovenia does not weigh up against the profits so entire countries will simply be cut off from being served a variety of services.

It's a huge mess, and let's not get into the Irish authorities incompetence in setting this whole thing up and their communications with businesses all over Europe.

You're right that it's a huge mess. As you point out, it's only larger companies who have the resources to make a complete and ongoing attempt to comply with every little rule. Therefore a market has been created for tools to let small businesses carry on doing what they were previously doing quite happily anyway. Perhaps the most damning indictment of all is that this market will probably be served by... the same kinds of large multinationals that were rearranging their accounts to reduce their tax burdens in the first place, and that will now also be able to cream off a significant margin from many small businesses' transactions as well.

Incidentally, you missed one of my favourite points that the authorities still seem to have overlooked: they apparently continue to assume that those small businesses who do trade on-line are all selling something via some marketplace site, which can therefore take on much of the burden of compliance, record-keeping, and the like. I guess we'd all better start shorting Stripe, GoCardless, and friends, because presumably according to the EU they have no small business customers. ::facepalm::

I just want to launch websites to test an idea, see if it works. But with VAT MOSS I have to go through a mess just to ensure I'm doing everything legally, even though I might not even continue with the idea after 1 month. It's an unnecessary frustration.

On small transaction the cost of that 'good accountant' will easily outweigh your profits.

I've never met that good accountant. On the contrary, my experience has been that every accountant I've dealt with in connection with my small business interests also struggled to get their heads around VAT MOSS for a while, and even they had no idea how it was going to hit small businesses on 1 January this year.

And as others have also pointed out, there are plenty of very small busineses who could never afford that level of ongoing accountancy support, nor to hire people to develop the relevant record-keeping systems and automate the corresponding reporting processes.

That's actually near impossible each EU country will have a flat VAT rate as well as reduced VAT rates on certain items (books, children cloths, cat sex toys etc.) there are also other different regulations especially in regards to 2nd hand items and crafted items.

In some EU countries re-selling an item will not trigger VAT, in some it will, in some it might require some work to be done (e.g. refurbishing) in which case you need to charge VAT but even that's not that simple because in some countries you only charge VAT on the actual work and bill of material that went into the refurbishing process, in some countries you need to charge VAT for the whole amount based on the final sale price and the list goes on and on and on.

VAT MOSS also completely ignores the fact that you might be VAT exempt in your own country, if you are in the UK you can choose not to register for VAT if your business earns under 100K a year in this case you simply do not charge VAT, but well Spain doesn't care about that so they might come knocking because you have a Spanish costumer or 2.

There is no realistic way for people to figure out when and how much VAT you'll need to charge, and you'll need quite a good and expensive accountant to sort that out and even they might actually not know everything.

"a good accountant will take care of the rest."

Are we living on the same planet?

Because, international companies are going to avoid operating in Europe unless the profit outweighs the burden of stupid laws like this. The start up I work for would not consider expansion in Europe before the USA.

My next startup is going to be a digital payments provider which takes the headache out of VAT compliance for EU SMEs.

Fastspring already does this, and thank god they do, I really don't want to deal with the vat moss bullshit

Regulations by definition are for holding rapidly advancing industries back, for various reasons.

Good regulations have almost nothing to do with technological change. We have regulations against pollution or fraud not because the technology has changed but because the incentives otherwise don't line up. You can pollute the air using technology from 1895 and if it's cheaper to do that than to install emissions controls then economics will drive you to do that unless regulations prohibit it.

Regulating very new technologies is almost always unwise. There will already be existing generic laws and regulations against serious bad outcomes (you are not allowed to knowingly kill people regardless of method) and for less serious outcomes it's generally better to let the technology shake out and take some time to study and understand it, even if there is a short-term cost to doing that.

Well I'm thinking along the lines, "low-polluting equipment is most likely more expensive => the company is held slightly back by demanding new standards". Maybe some regulation is needed, some is not. And all of it is by definition against the company. But not necessarily against the society as a whole.

That's just plain wrong.

> judges established that the simple act of linking to publicly available content is no copyright infringement, because it does not reach a new public, a few questions were left open bis this ruling, however: For example when exactly content can be seen as accessible by the public and how e.g. links surpassing paywalls are to be treated.

Links surpassing paywalls are a non-issue, IMO. Those coming-from-Google paywall bypasses are put in place by the content copyright holders specifically for the purpose of making that possible. If they didn't want their paywall bypassed, they wouldn't have built (or would turn off) their paywall bypass for search engines.

The end points are 100% under control of the content owner. They are free to decide who to let in and who not to let in. Why should there be any onus on the linker to do anything whatsoever and not exercise their full rights to use hyperlinks any way that they want to?

I don't understand. Help me. Why do you even PUT content at a linkable url online if you don't want anyone linking to it?

If I wanted to control exactly who views my content and where they come from I can just check headers for internal linking or generate unique single-use URLs for each visitor.

What is the practical scenario that this legislation aims to cover?

> What is the practical scenario that this legislation aims to cover?

Newspapers want Google to give them money

Or else what? Or they will stop being indexed by Google? Why would they want that? It makes no sense!

It doesn't make any sense.

Google should sometimes just give people what they claim they want. "Be careful what you wish for". Unions often have "work to rule" - you do what you're paid to do and no more, and it's an effective method of industrial action.

If a newspaper site doesn't want Google to index them Google should just drop them. Maybe provide help about setting up robots.txt.

Does Google have a blog post about why they index pages behind a paywall, and why they're happy to not index pages behind paywalls? (I understand it as "we want to index stuff that people can get to. If they can't get to it we don't want to index it")

Or maybe Google should just give ads and paywalled content the same shaded background?

I no longer care.. fuck it. Let them break the internet. We will not be the only one to face the consequences.

I for one, started hoarding data, scraping good websites for valuable information while I still can.

We should also be preparing the infrastructure for a global network that's asynchronous, anonymous, and encrypted. It doesn't seem all that unlikely that the whole notion of a real-time internet is going to collapse or become infeasible for anything but entertainment approved by the corporations and states. And of course that has already happened to some extent. We should maintain a relatively slow grassroots samizdat network. Even the remotest regions should be able to receive dispatches through couriers, and in regions where packet-switched internet is somewhat operational we can distribute the samizdat at net speeds. I suppose I'm thinking of an "interplanetary" network. A network fit for the Firefly universe, if you will.

There already are efforts to address this with projects like the IPFS. However, without mass adoption, it seems very unlikely that an alternative internet would emerge before the increasingly-likely collapse of the open internet.

Somewhat agreed. However, there is enough repression to provide incentive for semi-shady people to work on these things. Unfortunately piracy seems to be the biggest incentive for secret communications, and while that is indeed productive, it incentivizes high-bandwidth torrents for large files, which is not exactly in line with the most crucial needs (although of course there are important uses for distribution of videos and photos). An interplanetary low-bandwidth Usenet might be the most crucial necessity for the upcoming dystopian future. So I suggest we start encouraging the spread of subversive poetry and politically uncomfortable discussions, to incentivize such a grassroots network.

You're best off figuring out other avenues to do this - HN is preaching to the choir.

You need a choir to make a chorus.

> However, without mass adoption, it seems very unlikely that an alternative internet would emerge before the increasingly-likely collapse of the open internet.

I am not sure what you mean by mass adoption. Sure, there has to be a critical mass for it to work. But I don't think that everyone and their dog should use it.

Part of what made "the good old days" of the web so awesome was that you needed to put in some hours to actually use it. Thanks to this, it wasn't that interesting for people who didn't want to contribute (somewhat) meaningfully.

It doesn't necessarily apply to IPFS, but the increasing amount of "mobile only" users significantly limits what sort of input people can provide.

You should tell Kimble that message, he's currently determined to launch MegaNet using mobiles to store data when they're idle in a p2p network.

Right, and it's not a bad use of mobile devices, but my point is users can't introduce anywhere near as much input. If everyone were to go in that direction, written word - not to mention programming would take a huge blow.

Am I the only one who prefers the current internet over IPFS? IPFS exposes my IP to anyone who wants to know about the websites I'm visiting. As seen with BitTorrent, that power gets abused significantly. I would prefer a IPFS+Usenet solution, separating the nodes from the clients. What would be even better is if I could choose to connect exclusively to [any country here] nodes, and then I can feel comfortable knowing my traffic is remaining within borders that I can trust with privacy laws.

I believe that the underlying transport mechanism is not part of IPFS; You can use IPFS over Tor to insure privacy.

Also, you can run nodes on other systems. This is effectively what `https://ipfs.io` is.

I would have thought that those in European nations would have learned from their mistakes by now. Spain did this, initially only some companies demanded money and so Google just removed them from the index. Then the companies realised it was a disaster.

Then the Spanish government made it mandatory for everyone to pay the media companies, regardless - and they weren't allowed to do it directly either. They had to pay the state, who then paid the publisher. Nobody was allowed to opt-out. So Google News pulled out entirely. It was an unmitigated disaster... for the publishers:


To quote that article:

Whatever loss of traffic occurs due to readers who may read a news aggregator and then choose not to read an entire story, is more than made up for by the "market expansion" effect, the study found. In other words, given access to a news aggregator like Google, people read much more news.

The NERA analysis found a 6 percent overall drop in traffic from the Spanish Google News closure and a 14 percent drop for smaller publications. Those numbers are slightly smaller than a GigaOm analysis from last year, which found traffic drop-offs of 10 to 15 percent.

But once these plans apply to every single EU state Google will in effect have to choose between leaving the EU market or paying.

That's at least the plan they have come up with.

If they severely limit the Internet in the process doesn't matter to them. They'll create a shitty EU alternative if they have to.

I hate to say this, because I'm generally anti- big company. But the major players on the internet need to band together and act collectively. If google, microsoft, facebook, amazon, etc. responded by blocking access, I think the EU would straighten out pretty quickly.

Actually, it would be better to create a decentralised, anonymous linking protocol. How this could be done, I have no idea.

That would legitimise Torrent link trackers :-) Kind of the Spanish governments worst nightmare really. It would mean that they couldn't stop the link trackers, there would be a band of citizens who summarised news articles and made other citizens more politically active and it would help spread pirated content.

It would also cut out the middle man (Google News).

Classic own goal really.

How much do you think Google earns with News? I'm pretty sure they would simply shut down the service EU-wide, and continue providing just their core business, Google Search.

It doesn't matter to them how much Google earns, it is threatening the business model of EU media corporations.

Therefore the framework of rules must be changed. This is protectionism.

Then they get pinged for indexing news articles in Google search.

If it becomes uneconomic, then that's precisely what Google will have to do. What I suspect will then happen is that news outlets will have to offshore their news distribution to outside of Europe. Ironic, really.

The spanish gov bluff lasted a couple of weeks... (until the big media groups realised how bad the profit-loss was)


Actually, I believe it's still in effect.

Edit: yup, it is:


The joke is that they tried to retreat... Yes, this is the same gov that taxes the sun... (and probably soon will try to rent cubic meters of air so the spaniards can breathe)

Am I the only one who finds these regulations increasingly funny?

I want to see how they would react to URL shortening services, base64-encoded outgoing redirects, links injections only on click events; you know, the gray tactics the whole internet already uses!

Please explain this one thing to me: why don't politicians work with field experts? Not just IT, but any domain, really.

The government sets an agenda and uses all kinds of tricks to get it through the parliament as fast as possible. A real democratic process is not desired. MPs usually don't have enough time to even read bills, doing proper research is completely out of the question, and therefore they trust the party position. Disagreeing with the party is sanctioned, e.g. you won't get listed in the next election (-> you lose the income you need for your mortgage), less speaking time, etc.

Source: Members of the Bundestag and "Von Rettern und Rebellen" by Klaus-Peter Willsch

> MPs usually don't have enough time to even read bills, doing proper research is completely out of the question, and therefore they trust the party position.

I don't get this. They should automatically reject anything they didn't have time to read.

I wrote about this 13 years ago during the Les Kelly vs. Arriba Soft Corp. court case(s):


I went the other way, though - my thought experiment was, what if you came up with a standard way to "say" a URL in plain english. As in, just a wordy, colloquial way to describe the content that is in a URL.

Obviously this would fall under free speech and nobody would consider barring such speech ...

So I think now, as I did then, that if you really want to demonstrate the ridiculous nature of these proposals, you need a browser plug-in that allows you to describe URLs in plain english and then demonstrate that to the court (or whomever).

But most copyrighted works are already in plain English and aren't excluded from copyright because of "free speach", so that argument doesn't add up. You're trying to argue that anything that can be written in plain English can't be subjected to copyright.

I don't think that is what rsync is talking about at all. I read it to mean that instead of using a specific hyperlink, that you could use a collection of English words that would allow some hypothetical computer system to locate the same resource. Reading rsync's linked article,

  >> Consider also that it would be trivial for a programmer of a web 
  browser to alter the behavior of the browser such that a normal text
  link that points to a file determined to be a picture would result
  in the actual picture being displayed - exactly as it would have been
  if an inline link were being used.  
  Further, it would also be trivial to rewrite the browser to display the
  picture in question given an english sentence on the web page that
  described the address of the picture, thus prompting this (as yet)
  imaginary web browser to, once again, display the picture.

  >> The important point is that the behavior of any given web browser
  as relates to the use of links (inline or otherwise) is in fact
  completely arbitrary.  Therefore the prohibition of one kind of
  linking over another not only demonstrates a failure to grasp how
  the underlying technology works (and could be made to work) but also
  represents a legal precedent that would require constant maintenance
  and revision to remain relevant.

Right, so a different form of describing hyperlinks? Just changing the form doesn't matter. I've said this many times on HN: 'law is not a closed rule-based system like computers are'.

Besides, I'm not sure what 'free speech' has to do with anything. For starters we have such a thing only in the abstract in the EU; secondly, there are many, many exceptions to 'free speech' that neuter all 'absolutist interpretation of free speech' based ideas like this one.

The law and the courts don't care about the technical implementation; if it works like a link, it's a link. The Pirate Bay defense was much stronger than that, and look at what happened.

I don't know about the EU but in the US politicians to work with field experts, they are called lobbyists. This is why you have the automotive industry writing automotive law, etc.

And another strike by the same EU Digital Economy commissioner (!) that "had no sympathy for Jennifer Lawrence when she happens to post her private pictures online".

I'm pretty hopeless, especially because there's no way on gods green earth to get rid of this guy. EU is so high above country level politics (yet defines >80% of laws in the end), it's hard to even get people to the voting booth. And even if they do, it's completely parliamentary, no chance to influence anything.

It doesn't help that completely incompetent politicians in the country parties get dilbertized one level up so they "can't hurt anymore". This pirate politician is about the only one there decently transparent and accountable.

A hyperlink is the same as a reference in a book. That means referencing a precise portion of a book (for instance, ISBN + page number, or just title + publisher + chapter number) would become a copyright violation too.

I'm not sure the EC is conscious of that, because it would have huge consequences. The cost of academic research papers, for instance, with their pages full of references, would become dramatically high to produce, or even impossible (what if I don't want you to talk about my works ?)

Has any organization formally estimated the worldwide, annual economic value generated by the open internet? When copyright (intended to promote the generation of creative works) is abused for control, the loser is the legitimacy of copyright. Those who want control should invent new mechanisms that are specifically for control, instead of hiding behind and squandering the legitimate role of copyright.

> Those who want control should invent new mechanisms that are specifically for control

You mean, DRM, rootkits, hardware TPMs, etc? Personally, I prefer copyright, at least it can be easily ignored.

The problem is that "technological protection" mechanisms are being bound to copyright, the violation of which is being bound to criminal law in TPP/TTIP/RCEP.

DRM would have an uphill battle if it could not hitch a ride on the legitimacy of copyright. They need to be separated. One protects transient and ever-changing business models, one protects human creativity in a virtuous circle inspired by past creativity.

Bypassing DRM has been criminal for decades now, as a result of the WIPO Copyright Treaty and TRIPS.

Any fellow Europeans here, who remember the good old time, when we used to make jokes about American Politics being so stupid?

I feel sad, very sad.

"the simple act of linking to publicly available content is no copyright infringement, because it does not reach a new public"

That's not really the most straight forward reasoning? I'd say linking is not COPYright infringement because nothing is ever copied.

lol. it wouldn't break the internet. it would just break european websites. I applaud Julia's euro-centric ego though.

I agree though, let them do it. Someone has to show everyone what nonsense this is. Cautionary tales serve a purpose.

If you are a EU citizen, vote pirate in the EU elections.

We got Christian Engström last term, and we have Julia Reda this term. They're doing a ton of good. We need more.

IPFS, anyone?


I completely support the IPFS (especially with them keeping content hosting explicitly out of scope). The problem I faced when trying to leverage IPFS for a project is that the reference implementation is very difficult to use in languages other than Go, and to completely embed in applications (as in staticly linking to sqlite).

Yeah, I like Go, but the reference implementation should have been a C library (or similar). There are splinter projects trying to implement it for other languages, but they're either already dead or moving at a snail's pace.

I love the idea, but that decision leaves me with little confidence that it'll catch on.

I guess it just needs time for maturing: more languages and better UX. If IPFS finally piggybacks on the Ethereum ecosystem it will accelerate considerably this...

Couldn't EU telcos just block this protocol and declare it a special service (thanks to the new net-neutrality ruling) ?

No. That's not what "specialised service" means.

When you have a culture of statism this is what you get. You elect governments that want to and do micromanage your lives.

Don't blame it on the politicians. You guys elected these people. They're just following the ideology of their politics.

Don't you think that the whole 'democracy' model is flawed from the top to the bottom? If there were no good candidates offered to the public, how would the public choose a good one? And if a good one would somehow emerge, it is trivial to 'catch him' with a pack of heroin or being related to 'enemies', isn't it?

I think it's a great idea because those media companies will get crippled when everyone stops linking to them. What a great way to put a serious dent in an annoying industry.

This is so broken.

I'm giving up. The political system is broken beyond repair.

It really doesn't matter, I will make my own internet.


Unapolgetically meta, but has anyone else noticed the rise of what I'll call "Reddit style" comments on HN recently? Subjectively, I've noticed more and more joke comment threads that a year ago, were never seen here.

That's the exact reason why I moved away from reddit some time ago. Reddit used to have insightful comments and debate, but it deteriorated into knee jerk one liners and pun threads (at least in the main subs)

Sadly the same trend is noticeable on hackernews too lately, still very rarely but it seems to become more common.

I absolutely have. It could be that reddit trains people to automatically think of puns for social gratification. It could be also because HN is basically a subreddit, and people automatically associate this format with puns and cynical one liners.

It's been known since the days of BBS's that communities get worse as they get bigger.

Yes. It's not just new accounts either.

You think that discussion naturally tends towards "let's not take this seriously and I like being funny", so it's destined overtime?

I don't know. I just suddenly started seeing a bunch of pun threads. A year or so ago they would have been downvoted and had people making polite posts about how that kind of thing isn't welcome here. But these didn't seem to have downvotes. I have no idea if they got flags or not.

Maybe I just started noticing something that's been here a long time?

It'd be interesting to see if mods noticed anything.

You are not alone. Lots of comments on HMM in the past 4-5 months have been low effort, half hearted cynical reddit fare. The community has done a pretty good job of policing the tone here, but it's certainly becoming noticeable.

This frightens me - I'm sure most people here are familiar with the quality of discussion of any reasonably large subreddit. The idea of that happening here is not enjoyable.

Glad to hear some consensus on this. I've been flagging low-quality comments but the sudden & sharp increase in reddit-style comments worries me. Curious if any mods have noticed this as well?

> low effort

Of course, HN's habit of downvoting posts because of disagreement punishes effort. What do you expect?

Well, a year ago I'd see "low effort" jokes or simple statements downvoted or removed. I'd see many discussions which had disagreeing replies one after the other, all positively voted.

So perhaps "Hn's habit of downvoting" has evolved over the years.

So... the Internet.

Why are tech companies so bad at lobbying? If a small, dying industry like publishing is strong enough to push through stuff like this, why can't cash-flush tech companies combat it?

When I lock my front door and leave a spare key under the doormat, my insurance company is not obliged by law to pay for any damages if the spare key is used by thieves to enter my house. I could have easily prevented the situation.

Content publishers should properly lock their front doors, too, and not have spare keys lying around all over the place.

Silly for digital media to try and leech off of the more successful tech cos. In general, digital media is scrambling with various monetization strategies. But they're thinking about the problem wrong. They obsess over how to monetize people already on their site. Instead, they should start asking how they can monetize people coming to their site. I think the proposition linked by OP is a very premature recognition of that. The proposed solution is way out in left field, but there are saner approaches, such as the use of interstitial advertising. Of course, now adblockers become relevant to the discussion, and I won't go down that rabbit hole (here, at least.)

Disclosure: I operate a link shortener [1] that pays people based on their traffic using interstitial advertising.

[1] https://credhot.com

Will this also way the other way around ? I.e. will newspapers also need to pay if they link to external source?

Time to play devil's advocate and do a thought experiment. What if we created a site containing every word and every conjugation in a way that could be linked to. This work is clearly not a copyright violation. What if we then wrote a "compression" program that took any text file and converted it to a file containing only links to this site. Few would argue that is not a copyright violation. Yet the resulting file contains nothing of the original, it is just a link. If linking to a whole text with a single link is not a copyright violation, at what point between that and our "compressed" file does it cross the line, and why?

Or, put another way, if links had been copyright violations from the start, would we think that it was a sensible and logical characteristic of copyright?

Because governments and large corporations want colored (or coloured) bits. (http://ansuz.sooke.bc.ca/entry/23)

That experiment has been done before! https://github.com/philipl/pifs

What is the legal implication of distributing a range of Pii that can be translated into copyrighted material?

Remember all these sites that ban hyperlinking to them in their ToS:


Since democracy seems incapable of progressing with changes in the world, would it ever be possible to have a bureaucratic technocracy? Something where technocrats write up and implement legislation rather than people who have no understanding?

Um, it's not democracy that's at fault. Legislative structures first goal is to protect capital. In practice this leads to lobbyists influencing legal decisions.

In the fantasy technocracy - unless it was totalitarian communism - there would be instruments to sound the markets for need for legislation and big capital would have as much say so there as here now.

Technocracy seems to be as much of a myth as meritocracy. How do you decide who is actually an expert in their field? And they are still completely undemocratic.

I'd like to know how many of the people complaining here about their legislators have called, written, or visited* (yes you can do that) said legislators to help educate them.

*In the U.S.

Just let them pass the legislation. Any media company actually trying to enforce their "rights" will promptly die.

Hyperlinks are not a problem. Government is a problem. The EA and it's legislators are a problem.

when was internet free? i always have paid to use it. i understand free software but internet is here cause an infrastructure was created and deployed (means paid). my lan is free (cause i paid for that).

i don't get the point. someone wants to control a wan. is that a news?

Internet already has this. If you want to be paid by google for linking to your site you just need to put NOINDEX in proper place in the page header. Though it's really up to google if they choose to list you and pay you or not list you.

What exactly makes a text a hyperlink?

Does it have to be only the usual <a href="#">text</a> ?

What if I do this: <div link="#">text</div>

And then I use JavaScript to redirect, is it still considered a hyperlink?

Have I just found a loop hole? :)

There's a lot of "considering" and "seems" in the article, and skimming the leaked document I didn't find anything definite either. So I'm not particulary worried.

Let it pass. Let these nimwits embarrass themselves.

Maybe before establishing all these EU bureaucracies they should have focused on establishing a strong bill of rights. The first amendment at least in the US would almost certainly prevent nonsense like this.

The EU commissions overall feel like they are flailing around making up the rules they go. At least when courts in the US disagree, it is about adherence to precedent and the constitution, not appeasing whatever group is lobbying them at the time.

* (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

    (2) The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.*
(At first glance it has more caveats, but in practice they're all present in US 1st amendment caselaw as well)

It is not true that these are remotely equivalent. US case-law says, you have freedom of speech unless it specifically calls for violence or threatens very, very, direct harm ie calling "fire" in a theater (and yes, even copyrighted material can be quoted or satirized as necessary to make a political statement).

"For the prevention of disorder of crime, for the protection of health and morals for the protection of the reputation or rights of others" -- those are wide, gaping holes which make this statement absolutely useless.

The US has the same caveats, it's just that the limitations of free speech are decided in case law instead of specifically codified.

> For the prevention of disorder of crime

There are all sorts of types of speech that are criminal in the US because they are either a crime, or encourage/enable crime in some way.

> for the protection of health and morals

There are plenty of examples in the US of speech being limited for health reasons.

Protection of morals is a bit more of a gray area, but certainly there are historical examples of the US limiting speech for reasons that amount to morality.

> for the protection of the reputation or rights of others

Again, libel is a crime in the US.

> Again, libel is a crime in the US.

There is no criminal defamation in the U.S. at a federal level, and only a minority of states have such an offense: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_defamation_law#C...

According to the Wikipedia page said laws are rarely used, though I cannot speak to that myself.

The way it is interpreted is important. I agree that a "health" exemption is used in the US for things like cigarette ads, but as far as "reputation", US courts would laugh at the "right to be forgotten". Basically, in the US, free speech has priority over just about everything else, while most of the EU seems to toss it whenever it comes into conflict with anything else.

Libel specifically says you cannot say provably false things. You can ruin a reputation, without lying, without a problem in the US.

The difference is evidenced by the "right to be forgotten" ruling in Europe, where the ability to hide past actions was deemed more important than the right to publicize those links / events.

Unless it's about agriculture: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_libel_laws (civil burden of proof, and reversed in some places).

I agree with your sentiment, but as far as yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater, I obviously wouldn't recommend it but it's not so simple: "Oliver Wendell Holmes made the analogy during a controversial Supreme Court case that was overturned more than 40 years ago"


Would it? ThePirateBay didn't host content, but the US seems to find it highly illegal. Magnet links make it even clearer that hyperlinks are NOT always OK.

Take Ottinger out of the Commission, and this idea will die. He was the one pushing for such a tax in Germany, too. He has strong ties with GEMA there.

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