back to article Mulled EU copyright shakeup will turn us into robo-censors – GitHub

Code-repository GitHub has raised the alarm about a pending European copyright proposal THAT could force it to implement automated filtering systems – referred to by detractors as "censorship machines" – that would hinder developers working with free and open source software. The proposal, part of Article 13 of the EU …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another stupid directive written by stupid people.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Another fascinating comment written by a genius.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        >Another fascinating comment written by a genius.

        Thank you for that contribution, it has all the value of a eunuch to a sperm bank.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > Another stupid directive written by stupid people.

          Thank you for that contribution, it has all the value of a eunuch to a sperm bank.


          1. onefang

            Another anonymous coward commentarding about yet another anonymous coward.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              >Another anonymous coward commentarding about yet another anonymous coward.

              I didn't know onefang was a real name and address, I personally prefer to concentrate on what one says and not who says it but with Mr AC FTFY I'm spared concentrating on either.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Mr AC FTFY

                Unforch you can't tell which AC is which, which is where a handle helps, allowing you to thread comments together. I wasn't aware that you needed that explaining to you, seems obvious.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Let the police to the police work already!

    The main reason why I am heavily against proposals like these and would even label them as utterly stupid, narrow minded and a plain out scam is because this is yet another classic example of a government which gets TONS of money in the forms of taxes yet seems quite busy in coming up with ways to do less. While still getting paid the same insane amounts of taxes of course. Don't expect to get a tax break anytime soon.

    When they feel that the law is being violated then they should act against that. That's in its very essence why the population is paying taxes: to allow the government to act on our behalf and work on the best interests of the community. That's it! The police are actually paid by us, you and me, and the idea is that they enforce the rules which have been set out so that we can have a safe and pleasant society.

    So my problem with this, even though I can only look at what's happening in my country, is that I see the police do less and less. No kidding: if you want to report a crime in Holland then chances are high that you'll be told to either do this online, or to make an appointment; they can probably squeeze you in somewhere after 3 weeks. In all fairness: this does heavily depend on the police station you visit. But even so it still makes one wonder how much chances there will be left to solve a crime after 3 weeks.

    I'm not out for a police state mind you, absolutely not, but I do think its fair to demand that the police does what we're paying them for. And that does NOT include getting bystanders to do their work for them, like in this case. Shouldn't these rules supposed to be here in order to protect us?

    Instead of "working hard" to come up with new proposals which allows the government to do even less, why not come up with solid solutions which can help the police address these 'crimes' (assuming there actually are some, copyright infriction usually only boils down to monetary problems).

    And I also feel a little bit insulted, even though I have hardly any ties with GitHub, but it's yet another (indirect!) attack on the freedom of expression to me. I mean... GitHub is mostly used to host open source projects, and people are mostly sharing their intellectual property in a way which can benefit everyone.

    If you have a problem with someone's work take it up with them or with GitHub. But don't come up with stupidity like this. Especially because all this nonsense does is cater to some cry babies who - generally speaking - can't even provide a solid showcase in how much revenue was "stolen" from them when being asked to.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Let the police to the police work already!


      " allow the government to act on our behalf and work on the best interests of the community..."

      "The police are actually paid by us, you and me, and the idea is that they enforce the rules which have been set out so that we can have a safe and pleasant society."

      That may be the theory, and might even be the case in Scandinavia, but in the UK neither group see it like that. They really don't.

      Their order of priority is:

      1. Themselves

      2. Themselves

      3. Themselves

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Let the police to the police work already!

      I think your basic point gets lost in the verbiage. (I often do the same.) The basic point that enforcing the laws is being passed on to others, be they corporations or to each individual is dead on. The state, which has a monopoly on force, is supposed to be doing the enforcement. Not GitHub, a personal or corporate websit, especially Google and that lot.

      1. Joe Werner Silver badge

        Re: Let the police to the police work already!

        I understand that point.

        Stupid counterexample: Say I own a house. I allow people to come in and peddle drugs or other illegal goods. I would argue that by letting people come in and openly do that I can be held complicit in any of these crimes - under current law. Similar if you allow people to share illegal material through your platform. As soon as you are aware of what's going on you have to stop and report it. Closing your eyes and going "lalalalalaaa, I cannot see you" doesn't help you.

        As I said, that's a stupid but maybe sort of helpful example.

        And no, I cannot think of a good solution. But I think if you are a copyright holder you should get paid for your work. And if you use a software library without a clear license agreement for anything production you deserve to be hit with a sockful of thinwire terminators - that argument by Github doesn't count.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "The state ... is supposed to be doing the enforcement."

        Ehm, no - there are rules which states you have to act, and not wait for the state to come in.

        For example you can't leave expired products on shelf, and wait for a customer to complain and call the police to remove them.

        Receiving stolen goods is also a crime... and all these sites prosper hosting someone else's contents, often stolen - and the excuse "we are too large to abide to the rules" can't stand.

  3. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Youtube content ID is crap. I uploaded a video ocean waves and content ID claimed about 20 seconds of it for some shitty ambient song.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      I say kudos to the person who's managed to copyright the sound of the ocean. Let's face it, there shouldn't be a resource on this planet that can't be privatised and turned into a revenue source for the rich.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Youtube situation is now almost comical...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Youtube situation is now almost comical...

        Shows what crap algorirhms Google are using if they can't distinguish White Noise from other content.

        1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: Youtube situation is now almost comical...

          FM radio broadcasting was invented in 1933 says Wikipedia. The Big Bang, from which the oldest radio white noise originates, took place about 13.8 billion years ago. Either way, it is surely out of copyright by now. At worst, we have to look for the origin of FM radio receiver powered by battery, whose output degenerates to white noise as it runs out.

          Science fiction reference:

          An obvious allegory of the subversive social menace of teenagers passively littered all over the place listening to portable transistor radio with earpiece playing unworldly alien sounds like The Beatles and Who? and Purple Hayes and Terry Wogan And The Pirates. If any of that makes sense for 1962.

  4. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Not GitHubs problem

    They are based in California. They block access to EU customers and if that's a problem for their EU customers, those customers can tell their local politicians about it, or they can set up their own "git repo-hosting" website and ignore complaints from US lawyers. It's not like GH is a technically complex web-site.

    These constant wrangles about whose law applies to whose website amaze me. I can't think of any other domain of human activity where people *expect* that a single entity should abide by two contradictory sets of rules at the same time.

    1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

      Re: Not GitHubs problem

      " I can't think of any other domain of human activity where people *expect* that a single entity should abide by two contradictory sets of rules at the same time."

      Agreed. The EU's "Right to Defraud Forget" for search engines is a prime example.

    2. Tomato42

      Re: Not GitHubs problem

      @Ken Hagan

      so you're saying that they should just forget about world's second largest economy (they are already all-but-banned in China, the first)?

      jolly good business strategy! let me guess, you're a former Trump Casino administrator?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not GitHubs problem

        Precisely my point. After a certain point, I get up on my hind legs and give The Middle Finger. And in case they miss the point, it's in stereo. Has happened here with Toshiba & Ericsson, the US Government, Microsoft, and now the EU. They are pushing this shit on to the rest of us. Y'all want to force the non-EU population under your laws. Fuck off.

    3. The Nazz

      Re: Not GitHubs problem

      "I can't think of any other domain of human activity where people *expect* that a single entity should abide by two contradictory sets of rules at the same time."

      Oh i dunno, marriage* has moments like that.

      More correctly that one person expects the other to abide by the two contradictory sets of rules at the same time.

      *most likely civil partnerships also.

    4. coconuthead

      Re: Not GitHubs problem

      You do realise there exist open source projects with contributors both inside and outside the EU? Python comes to mind.

    5. Tigra 07
      Thumb Up

      Re: Not GitHubs problem

      "and if that's a problem for their EU customers, those customers can tell their local politicians about it"

      And the EU will ignore tham as they always know what's best for their protectionist bloc/gravytrain.

  5. Adrian 4


    What's so hard about finding copied copyright code automatically ?

    It merely needs all the code that's to be protected be made available for diffing against github et al. That shouldn't be a problem for those with lots of code : companies like Microsoft, Oracle, etc. already have big server farms, right ?

    1. Long John Brass

      Re: Simples

      It merely needs all the code that's to be protected be made available for diffing against github et al.

      Hmmm how about; If you want something covered by copyright then you *MUST* register the source with a public registrar who will hand out a copyright number/code. That way we can all check to make sure that our code is not infringing... :)

      1. vtcodger Silver badge

        Re: Simples

        Your copyrighted code includes the line:

        i = 2

        Does that mean that every block of code including "i = 2" is infringing?

        How about "i=2" or "I = 2" or "j = 2" ?

        1. MacroRodent

          Re: Simples

          What is even worse, even many multi-statement code sections are going to be similar, because sometimes there is just one or very few ways to do something, or the code section in both programs may have originated from a common source that is in the public domain, or liberalry licensed.

          But no doubt this will be a gold mine for IP lawyers.

          1. tom dial Silver badge

            Re: Simples

            Software copyrights are evaluated partly on structure, treating variable names used in the same way as equivalent. I recall looking at the infamous "rangecheck" code for a bit under a minute and concluding that there were, in practical terms, exactly two ways to code it, unique up to choice of variable names. This means, of course, that if three programmers of modest skills addressed the problem rangecheck solves, it is a near certainty that at least one of them was an infringer.

            Automating checks for such things on github seems a singularly bad idea.

    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Simples

      Software to automatically generate nuisance litigation based on bogus software source code copyright violations was developed and deployed extensively by The SCO Group against DaimlerChrysler, Autozone, IBM, Novell, all Linux hosting companies and all Linux users. Although thoroughly debunked in days, the litigation went on for years funded by investors who presumably later switched to Theranos and license fees that The SCO Group withheld from Novell.

      Although The SCO Group's epic folly should stand alone as the most ridiculous copyright claim of all time, Oracle stepped up to supply stiff competition by demanding billions for rangecheck.

      We are lucky that Judge Alsup taught himself to program so he could understand what was going on. I have confidence that with automated software generating thousands of false positives per hour, most cases will not be dealt with as promptly and efficiently as The SCO Group and Oracle.

    3. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: Simples

      Say I write some code and have my copyright message in the code, maybe register copyright by whatever pointless method EU want ...

      How no earth will a system detect infringement of my copyright?

      Assuming the code is non trivial then there will be all sorts of clashes with other code

      e.g. in my code is a helper method to read text from a file, yes it's trivial, but handy for unit tests and if anything alters in terms of file raeding needs it can be done in one place

      lets assume signature a bit like this

      string ReadFileAsText(string fullFilePath)

      Its possible that within lots of other code in a repository is the same method signature

      There certainly will be matches on small code fragments, who has not seen bits of code that do counting of something and have a line that defines and initializes the count

      e.g. int count = 0

      How much "match" will count as infringement 5%, 10%, 90%, 100%

      What if its only 5% but the 5% happens to be the most innovative methods they have "stolen" from my code as thats the key "secret sauce" that made it of value?

      What if they take the code and obfuscate it? All teh special functionality is there but code "text" looks vastly different to the stolen original

      Lots of work parsing the code, will need to be language specific, so that comments can be "ignored" when evaluating code copying (otherwise just altering / increasing comments would easily take the degree of matching down)

      Yet more magic thinking that can ony cause problems.

      There's enough legislation dealing with copyright breaches already, making repository hosts do copyright scans (that will have masses of false positives & negatives) is not achieving much other than letting bureaucrat tick the "something must be done" box

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What could possibly go wrong?

    The only problem is, much code can become the same, not because of copying but because of using the same methods.

    If you create a python script that for example fetches an image by running an open API's functions in some places, it is highly possible that a closed project which also uses said open API could have a function that is identical as it's performing the same task with the same API.

    There are many situations where identical code can appear when performing the same task. Doesn't always mean it's been copied.

    Then of course, there are patent laws which prevent you from coding something to do something which some big corp numpty has patented.

    For example, our EPOS system synchronizes with our website (Selling in store notifies the website server, server adjusts stock levels online and visa versa, keeps a complete log and totals for each day including who sold what etc, don't panic though, the EPOS system uses an stunnel to connect to the web server directly! None of it flies over in plain text!), the whole thing is custom (which is why the EPOS can run Linux, keeping the company Linux only, this way the EPOS software gets to stay native instead of inside internet explorer or something :P). The downside of this is of course the issue that if the store looses internet connectivity it has to revert to an "offline mode" which has no sync.

    I mention this because the methods I use are almost certainly copyrighted somewhere. But I did it myself and I'm not too fussed about copyright, I didn't take anyone else's code or copy anything. I just built it to task.

    Should I be considered a pirate/thief for doing it myself instead of paying some big corp? In the eyes of the law almost certainly!

    - Anon because of confession.

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: What could possibly go wrong?

      Lots of code runnig against third party APIs will probably be very similar...

      as many coders would have started from the example code provided by the vendor of that third party API

  8. roomey

    Email your MEP

    Elections are next year, so email your MEP and explain why this is a bad idea.

    See what they say, I have gotten an interesting response so far!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Email your MEP

      The EU parliament know this is bad, they pointed that out. The specific section was then redrafted, not by the parliament, but by someone working for the commission, who had drafted similar legislation in one EU country or the other (can't remember which), and ignored the objections raised.

      It is a shame the EU parliament never exercises its ability to block legislation, but then what can we expect when we put people like Farage in there?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Natural outcome

    Of Google's "It's impossible (ie. expensive) for us to vet all the content on our sites".

    Ok, we'll legislate so you have to. But obviously we can't just pick on Google so we'll have to hit all content sharing sites.

  10. onefang

    The big problem is that all the code monkeys out there are copy pasting the same bits of code from Stack Overflow, all that crap code gets copyrighted, and it all looks the same.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Does it? Is a 3 line snippet copyrightable? Probably not. How many lines does it take? Copyright is supposed to protect a substantive creative work, not anything and everything.

  11. JLV

    seems dumb

    The Github content is freely examinable.

    Why not instead mandate access to the repos to an accredited external review authority that could flag the issues? Developers that really care about this could then sign up for it. Mandate a need to act on a takedown request, with an arbitration/review mechanism.

    If dev X has issue Y against repo Z, that is much better decided externally and then notified to Github. There is no reason for Github to host "stolen" content, once that has been established, but asking each hosting provider to review stuff against potentially multiple jurisdictions' infringement criteria is silly.

    Of course, having a member of the Pirate Party come out against this dumb directive makes it easier to dismiss criticism as the moochers' wish to continue unimpeded. But I don't think a lot of the honest contributors to Github, and I assume they are in the majority, would find any great amount of merit in this proposal as it stands.

  12. PNGuinn

    One wonders ...

    One wonders if there has been any lobbying by interested parties for this piece of control?

    Shirly not - I mean, whatever made me think of it?

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