Article 13 aftermath: Internet Founders Beg EU to Shelve Its Bad Copyright Bill

slideIn the wake of the GDPR is another bill that is making earthquakes ahead of a major vote on EU copyright law, more than 70 leading technology figures have penned a joint letter condemning the Article 13 provision in the potential legislation – warning it could break the internet as we know it.

Europe is far more progressive with its privacy protections than most of the world, but it tends to be heavy-handed with its copyright laws. Next week, the European Parliament will vote on the first major update to its copyright rules since 2001. The internet has exploded in breadth and popularity since then, and lawmakers are facing increasing pressure from lobbying groups to modernize copyright laws. Unfortunately, the solution they’ve come up with appears to be deeply flawed.

The most controversial aspect of the Directive for Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive is Article 13, which imposes greater legal liability on websites and internet services for the content they host. Sites that allow users to post text, sounds, code, still or moving images will be required to automatically filter for registered content and will face penalties if they fail to block infringing content from appearing on their platform.

Among the signatories is the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, and internet pioneer Vint Cerf. Together with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and a gamut of other experts, they warn Article 13 “takes an unprecedented step towards the transformation of the internet, from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users”.

The letter highlights the cost of putting automatic filtering technologies in place to fulfill the new copyright rules, which they argue will hinder European startups and SMEs from competing with US firms. They draw particular attention to the effect of Article 13 on internet users, who would face a barrier to uploading and remixing everything from music and videos to computer code.”

In the letter, they write:

By requiring Internet platforms to perform automatic filtering all of the content that their users upload, Article 13 takes an unprecedented step towards the transformation of the Internet from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users.

Europe has been served well by the balanced liability model established under the Ecommerce Directive, under which those who upload content to the Internet bear the principal responsibility for its legality, while platforms are responsible to take action to remove such content once its illegality has been brought to their attention. By inverting this liability model and essentially making platforms directly responsible for ensuring the legality of content in the first instance, the business models and investments of platforms large and small will be impacted. The damage that this may do to the free and open Internet as we know it is hard to predict, but in our opinions could be substantial.

An organization called saveyourinternet states

The European Commission and the Council want to destroy the Internet as we know it and allow big companies to control what we see and do online. Should Article 13 of the Copyright Directive proposal be adopted, it will impose widespread censorship of all the content you share online. The European Parliament is the only one that can step in and Save your Internet.

The joint letter further states

“We support the consideration of measures that would improve the ability for creators to receive fair remuneration for the use of their works online,” the letter reads. “But we cannot support Article 13, which would mandate Internet platforms to embed an automated infrastructure for monitoring and censorship deep into their networks.

“For the sake of the internet’s future, we urge you to vote for the deletion of this proposal.

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