The European Parliament has voted to approve new copyright powers enabling the big media industry to control how their content is used on the internet.
Article 11 introduces the link tax which lets news companies control how their content is
used. The target of the new law is to make Google pay newspapers for its aggregating Google News service. The collateral damage is that millions of websites can now be harangued for linking to and quoting articles, or even just sharing links to them.
Article 13 introduces the requirements for user content sites to create censorship machines that pre-scan all uploaded content and block anything copyrighted. The original proposal, voted on in June, directly specified content hosts use
censorship machines (or filters as the EU prefers to call them). After a cosmetic rethink since June, the law no longer specifies automatic filters, but instead specifies that content hosts are responsible for copyright published. And of course the only
feasible way that content hosts can ensure they are not publishing copyrighted material is to use censorship machines anyway. The law was introduced, really with just the intention of making YouTube and Facebook pay more for content from the big media
companies. The collateral damage to individuals and small businesses was clearly of no concern to the well lobbied MEPs.
Both articles will introduce profound new levels of censorship to all users of the internet, and will also mean that there
will reduced opportunities for people to get their contributions published or noticed on the internet. This is simply because the large internet companies are commercial organisations and will always make decisions with costs and profitability in mind.
They are not state censors with a budget to spend on nuanced decision making. So the net outcome will be to block vast swathes of content being uploaded just in case it may contain copyright.
An example to demonstrate the point is the US
censorship law, FOSTA. It requires content hosts to block content facilitating sex trafficking. Internet companies generally decided that it was easier to block all adult content rather than to try and distinguish sex trafficking from non-trafficking sex
related content. So sections of websites for dating and small ads, personal services etc were shut down overnight.
The EU however has introduced a few amendments to the original law to slightly lessen the impact an individuals and small scale
Article 13 will now only apply to platforms where the main purpose ...is to store and give access to the public or to stream significant amounts of copyright protected content uploaded / made available by its users and that
optimise content and promotes for profit making purposes .
When defining best practices for Article 13, special account must now be taken of fundamental rights, the use of exceptions and limitations. Special focus
should also be given to ensuring that the burden on SMEs remain appropriate and that automated blocking of content is avoided (effectively an exception for micro/small businesses). Article 11 shall not extend to mere hyperlinks, which are accompanied by
individual words (so it seems links are safe, but quoted snippets of text must be very short) and the protection shall also not extend to factual information which is reported in journalistic articles from a press publication and will therefore not
prevent anyone from reporting such factual information .
Article 11 shall not prevent legitimate private and non-commercial use of press publications by individual users .
Article 11 rights shall expire 5 years after the publication of the press publication. This term shall be calculated from the first day of January of the year following the date of publication. The right referred to in paragraph 1 shall not apply with retroactive effect .
Individual member states will now have to decide how Article 11 is implemented, which could create some confusion across borders.
At the same time, the EU rejected the other modest proposals to help out individuals and small creators:
No freedom of panorama. When we take photos or videos in public spaces, we're apt to incidentally capture copyrighted works: from stock art in ads on the sides of buses to t-shirts worn by protestors, to building facades claimed by architects as
their copyright. The EU rejected a proposal that would make it legal Europe-wide to photograph street scenes without worrying about infringing the copyright of objects in the background.
No user-generated content exemption, which would have made
EU states carve out an exception to copyright for using excerpts from works for criticism, review, illustration, caricature, parody or pastiche.
A final round of negotiation with the EU Council and European Commission is now due to take place before member states make a decision early next year. But this is historically more of a rubber stamping process and few, if any, significant changes are
However, anybody who mistakenly thinks that Brexit will stop this from impacting the UK should be cautious. Regardless of what the EU approves, the UK might still have to implement it, and in any case the current UK Government supports
many of the controversial new measures.
Despite waves of calls and emails from European Internet users, the European Parliament today voted to accept the principle of a universal pre-emptive copyright filter for content-sharing sites, as well as the idea that news publishers should have
the right to sue others for quoting news items online -- or even using their titles as links to articles. Out of all of the potential amendments offered that would fix or ameliorate the damage caused by these proposals, they voted for worst on offer .
There are still opportunities, at the EU level, at the national level, and ultimately in Europe's courts, to limit the damage. But make no mistake, this is a serious setback for the Internet and digital rights in Europe.
It also comes at a trepidatious moment for pro-Internet voices in the heart of the EU. On the same day as the vote on these articles, another branch of the European Union's government, the Commission, announced plans to introduce a
new regulation on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online . Doubling down on speedy unchecked censorship, the proposals will create a new removal order, which will oblige hosting service providers to remove content within one hour of
being ordered to do so. Echoing the language of the copyright directive, the Terrorist Regulation aims at ensuring smooth functioning of the digital single market in an open and democratic society, by preventing the misuse of hosting services for
terrorist purposes; it encourages the use of proactive measures, including the use of automated tools.
Not content with handing copyright law enforcement to algorithms and tech companies, the EU now wants to expand that to
defining the limits of political speech too.
And as bad as all this sounds, it could get even worse. Elections are coming up in the European Parliament next May. Many of the key parliamentarians who have worked on digital rights
in Brussels will not be standing. Marietje Schaake, author of some of the better amendments for the directive, announced this week that she would not be running again. Julia Reda, the German Pirate Party representative, is moving on; Jan Philipp
Albrecht, the MEP behind the GDPR, has already left Parliament to take up a position in domestic German politics. The European Parliament's reserves of digital rights expertise, never that full to begin with, are emptying.
best that can be said about the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive, as it stands, is that it is so ridiculously extreme that it looks set to shock a new generation of Internet activists into action -- just as the DMCA, SOPA/PIPA and ACTA
did before it.
If you've ever considered stepping up to play a bigger role in European politics or activism, whether at the national level, or in Brussels, now would be the time.
It's not enough to hope
that these laws will lose momentum or fall apart from their own internal incoherence, or that those who don't understand the Internet will refrain from breaking it. Keep reading and supporting EFF, and join Europe's powerful partnership of digital rights
groups, from Brussels-based EDRi to your local national digital rights organization . Speak up for your digital business, open source project, for your hobby or fandom, and as a contributor to the global Internet commons.
a bad day for the Internet and for the European Union: but we can make sure there are better days to come.
MEPs approve copyright law requiring Google and Facebook to use censorship machines to block user uploads that may contain snippets of copyright material, including headlines, article text, pictures and video
The European Parliament has approved a disgraceful copyright law that threatens to destroy the internet as we know it.
The rulehands more power to news and record companies against Internet giants like Google and Facebook. But it also allows companies
to make sweeping blocks of user-generated content, such as internet memes or reaction GIFs that use copyrighted material. The tough approach could spell the end for internet memes, which typically lay text over copyrighted photos or video from television
programmes, films, music videos and more.
MEPs voted 438 in favour of the measures, 226 against, with 39 abstentions. The vote introduced Articles 11 and 13 to the directive, dubbed the link tax and censorship machines.
Article 13 puts the
onus of policing for copyright infringement on the websites themselves. This forces web giants like YouTube and Facebook to scan uploaded content to stop the unlicensed sharing of copyrighted material. If the internet companies find that such scanning
does not work well, or makes the service unprofitable, the companies could pull out of allowing users to post at all on topics where the use of copyright material is commonplace.
The second amendment to the directive, Article 11, is intended to
give publishers and newspapers a way to make money when companies like Google link to their stories.Search engines and online platforms like Twitter and Facebook will have to pay a license to link to news publishers when quoting portions of text from
Following Wednesday's vote, EU lawmakers will now take the legislation to talks with the European Commission and the 28 EU countries.
On Wednesday, the EU will vote on whether to accept two controversial proposals in the new Copyright Directive; one of these clauses, Article 13, has the potential to allow anyone, anywhere in the world, to effect mass, rolling waves of censorship across
The way things stand today, companies that let their users communicate in public (by posting videos, text, images, etc) are required to respond to claims of copyright infringement by removing their users' posts,
unless the user steps up to contest the notice. Sites can choose not to remove work if they think the copyright claims are bogus, but if they do, they can be sued for copyright infringement (in the United States at least), alongside their users, with
huge penalties at stake. Given that risk, the companies usually do not take a stand to defend user speech, and many users are too afraid to stand up for their own speech because they face bankruptcy if a court disagrees with their assessment of the law.
This system, embodied in the United States' Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and exported to many countries around the world, is called notice and takedown, and it offers rightsholders the ability to unilaterally censor the
Internet on their say-so, without any evidence or judicial oversight. This is an extraordinary privilege without precedent in the world of physical copyright infringement (you can't walk into a cinema, point at the screen, declare I own that, and get the
movie shut down!).
But rightsholders have never been happy with notice and takedown. Because works that are taken down can be reposted, sometimes by bots that automate the process, rightsholders have called notice and takedown a
game of whac-a-mole , where they have to keep circling back to remove the same infringing files over and over.
Rightsholders have long demanded a notice and staydown regime. In this system, rightsholders send online platforms
digital copies of their whole catalogs; the platforms then build copyright filters that compare everything a user wants to post to this database of known copyrights, and block anything that seems to be a match.
Tech companies have
voluntarily built versions of this system. The most well-known of the bunch is YouTube's Content ID system, which cost $60,000,000 to build, and which works by filtering the audio tracks of videos to categorise them. Rightsholders are adamant that
Content ID doesn't work nearly well enough, missing all kinds of copyrighted works, while YouTube users report rampant overmatching, in which legitimate works are censored by spurious copyright claims: NASA gets blocked from posting its own Mars rover
footage; classical pianists are blocked from posting their own performances , birdsong results in videos being censored , entire academic conferences lose their presenters' audio because the hall they rented played music at the lunch-break--you can't
even post silence without triggering copyright enforcement. Besides that, there is no bot that can judge whether something that does use copyrighted material is fair dealing. Fair dealing is protected under the law, but not under Content ID.
If Content ID is a prototype, it needs to go back to the drawing board. It overblocks (catching all kinds of legitimate media) and underblocks (missing stuff that infuriates the big entertainment companies). It is expensive, balky,
It's coming soon to an Internet near you.
On Wednesday, the EU will vote on whether the next Copyright Directive will include Article 13, which makes Content-ID-style filters mandatory for
the whole Internet, and not just for the soundtracks of videos--also for the video portions, for audio, for still images, for code, even for text. Under Article 13, the services we use to communicate with one another will have to accept copyright claims
from all comers, and block anything that they believe to be a match.
This measure will will censor the Internet and it won't even help artists to get paid.
Let's consider how a filter like this would have
to work. First of all, it would have to accept bulk submissions. Disney and Universal (not to mention scientific publishers, stock art companies, real-estate brokers, etc) will not pay an army of data-entry clerks to manually enter their vast catalogues
of copyrighted works, one at a time, into dozens or hundreds of platforms' filters. For these filters to have a hope of achieving their stated purpose, they will have to accept thousands of entries at once--far more than any human moderator could review.
But even if the platforms could hire, say, 20 percent of the European workforce to do nothing but review copyright database entries, this would not be acceptable to rightsholders. Not because those workers could not be trained to
accurately determine what was, and was not, a legitimate claim--but because the time it would take for them to review these claims would be absolutely unacceptable to rightsholders.
It's an article of faith among rightsholders
that the majority of sales take place immediately after a work is released, and that therefore infringing copies are most damaging when they're available at the same time as a new work is released (they're even more worried about pre-release leaks).
If Disney has a new blockbuster that's leaked onto the Internet the day it hits cinemas, they want to pull those copies down in seconds, not after precious days have trickled past while a human moderator plods through a queue of
copyright claims from all over the Internet.
Combine these three facts:
Anyone can add anything to the blacklist of copyrighted works that can't be published by Internet users;
The blacklists have to accept thousands of works at once; and
entries to the blacklist have to go into effect instantaneously.
It doesn't take a technical expert to see how ripe for abuse this system is. Bad actors could use armies to bots to block millions of works at a go (for example, jerks could use bots to bombard the databases with claims of ownership
over the collected works of Shakespeare, adding them to the blacklists faster than they could possibly be removed by human moderators, making it impossible to quote Shakespeare online).
But more disturbing is targeted censorship:
politicians have long abused takedown to censor embarrassing political revelations or take critics offline , as have violent cops and homophobic trolls .
These entities couldn't use Content ID to censor the whole Internet:
instead, they had to manually file takedowns and chase their critics around the Internet. Content ID only works for YouTube -- plus it only allows trusted rightsholders to add works wholesale to the notice and staydown database, so petty censors are
stuck committing retail copyfraud.
But under Article 13, everyone gets to play wholesale censor, and every service has to obey their demands: just sign up for a rightsholder account on a platform and start telling it what may and
may not be posted. Article 13 has no teeth for stopping this from happening: and in any event, if you get kicked off the service, you can just pop up under a new identity and start again.
Some rightsholder lobbyists have admitted
that there is potential for abuse here, they insist that it will all be worth it, because it will get artists paid. Unfortunately, this is also not true.
For all that these filters are prone to overblocking and ripe for abuse,
they are actually not very effective against someone who actually wants to defeat them.
Let's look at the most difficult-to-crack content filters in the world: the censoring filters used by the Chinese government to suppress
politically sensitive materials. These filters have a much easier job than the ones European companies will have to implement: they only filter a comparatively small number of items, and they are built with effectively unlimited budgets, subsidized by
the government of one of the world's largest economies, which is also home to tens of millions of skilled technical people, and anyone seeking to subvert these censorship systems is subject to relentless surveillance and risks long imprisonment and even
torture for their trouble.
Those Chinese censorship systems are really, really easy to break , as researchers from the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab demonstrated in a detailed research report released a few weeks ago.
People who want to break the filters and infringe copyright will face little difficulty. The many people who want to stay on the right side of the copyright --but find themselves inadvertently on the wrong side of the filters--will
find themselves in insurmountable trouble, begging for appeal from a tech giant whose help systems all dead-end in brick walls. And any attempt to tighten the filters to catch these infringers, will of course, make it more likely that they will block
A system that allows both censors and infringers to run rampant while stopping legitimate discourse is bad enough, but it gets worse for artists.
Content ID cost $60,000,000 and does
a tiny fraction of what the Article 13 filters must do. When operating an online platform in the EU requires a few hundred million in copyright filtering technology, the competitive landscape gets a lot more bare. Certainly, none of the smaller EU
competitors to the US tech giants can afford this.
On the other hand, US tech giants can afford this (indeed, have pioneered copyright filters as a solution , even as groups like EFF protested it ), and while their first
preference is definitely to escape regulation altogether, paying a few hundred million to freeze out all possible competition is a pretty good deal for them.
The big entertainment companies may be happy with a deal that sells a
perpetual Internet Domination License to US tech giants for a bit of money thrown their way, but that will not translate into gains for artists. The fewer competitors there are for the publication, promotion, distribution and sale of creative works, the
smaller the share will be that goes to creators.
We can do better: if the problem is monopolistic platforms (and indeed, monopolistic distributors ), tackling that directly as a matter of EU competition law would stop those
companies from abusing their market power to squeeze creators. Copyright filters are the opposite of antitrust, though: it will make the biggest companies much bigger, to the great detriment of all the little guys in the entertainment industry and in the
market for online platforms for speech.
Many thanks to my local MEP Athea McIntyre who responded to my email about the rise of the censorship machines
I appreciate your concerns regarding the new Copyright reform proposals. However, the objective of Article 13 is to make sure authors, such as musicians, are appropriately paid for their work, and to ensure that platforms fairly share revenues which they
derive from creative works on their sites with creators. I will be voting for new text which seeks to exclude small and microenterprise platforms from the scope and to introduce greater proportionality for SMEs.
In the text under
discussion, if one of the main purposes of a platform is to share copyright works, if they optimise these works and also derive profit from them, the platform would need to conclude a fair license with the rightholders, if rightholders request this. If
not, platforms will have to check for and remove specific copyright content once this is supplied from rightholders. This could include pirated films which are on platforms at the same time as they are shown at the cinema. However, if a platform's main
purpose is not to share protected works, it does not optimise copyright works nor to make profit from them, it would not be required to conclude a license. There are exemptions for online encyclopaedias (Wikipedia), sites where rightholders have approved
to the uploading of their works and software platforms, while online market places (including Ebay) are also out of the scope.
Closing this value gap is an essential part of the Copyright Directive, which Secretary of
State Matthew Hancock supports addressing . My Conservative colleagues and I support the general
policy justification behind it, which is to make sure that platforms are responsible for their sites and that authors are fairly rewarded and incentivised to create work. Content recognition will help to make sure creators, such as song writers, can be
better identified and paid fairly for their work. Nevertheless, this should not be done at the expense of users' rights. We are dedicated to striking the right balance between adequately rewarding rightholders and safeguarding users' rights. There are
therefore important safeguards to protect users' rights, respect data protection, and to make sure that only proportionate measures are taken.
I will therefore be supporting the mandate to enter into trilogue negotiations tomorrow
so that the Directive can become law.
[Surely one understand that musicians are getting a bit of a rough deal from the internet giants and one can see where McIntyre is coming from. However it is clear that little
thought has been made into how rules will pan out in the real profit driven world where the key take holders are doing their best for their shareholders, not the European peoples. It is surely driving the west into poverty when laws are so freely passed
just to do a few nice things, whilst totally ignoring the cost of destroying people's businesses and incomes].
Offsite Comment: ...And from the point of view of the internet giants
ARTICLE 19 is leading a coalition of international human rights organisations, who will tell the European Court of Justice (CJEU) that the de-listing of websites under the right to be forgotten should be limited in order to protect global freedom
of expression. The hearing will take place on September 11 with a judgment expected in early 2019.
The CJEU hearing in Google vs CNIL is taking place after France's highest administrative court asked for clarification in relation
to the 2014 ruling in Google Spain. This judgment allows European citizens to ask search engines like Google to remove links to inadequate, irrelevant or ... excessive content -- commonly known as the right to be forgotten (RTBF). While the content
itself remains online, it cannot be found through online searches of the individual's name.
The CJEU has been asked to clarify whether a court or data regulator should require a search engine to de-list websites only in the
country where it has jurisdiction or across the entire world.
France's data regulator, the Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertes (CNIL) has argued that if they uphold a complaint by a French citizen, search
engines such as Google should not only be compelled to remove links from google.fr but all Google domains.
ARTICLE 19 and the coalition of intervening organisations have warned that forcing search engines to de-list information on
a global basis would be disproportionate. Executive Director of ARTICLE 19, Thomas Hughes said:
This case could see the right to be forgotten threatening global free speech. European data regulators should not be
allowed to decide what Internet users around the world find when they use a search engine. The CJEU must limit the scope of the right to be forgotten in order to protect the right of Internet users around the world to access information online.
ARTICLE 19 argues that rights to privacy and rights to freedom of expression must be balanced when it comes to making deciding whether websites should be de-listed. Hughes added:
European regulators can tell Google to remove all references to a website, then it will be only a matter of time before countries like China, Russia and Saudi Arabia start to do the same. The CJEU should protect freedom of expression not set a global
precedent for censorship.
In exactly one week, the European Parliament will hold a crucial debate and vote on a proposal
so terrible , it can only be called an extinction-level event for the Internet as we know it.
At issue is the text of the new EU Copyright Directive, which updates the 17-year-old copyright regulations for the 28 member-states of the EU. It makes a vast array of technical changes to EU copyright law, each of which has
stakeholders rooting for it, guaranteeing that whatever the final text says will become the law of the land across the EU.
The Directive was pretty uncontroversial, right up to the day last May when the EU started enforcing the
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a seismic event that eclipsed all other Internet news for weeks afterward. On that very day, a German MEP called Axl Voss quietly changed the text of the Directive to
reintroduce two long-discarded proposals -- "Article 11" and "Article 13" -- proposals
that had been evaluated by the EU's own experts and dismissed as dangerous and unworkable.
Under Article 11 -- the " link tax " -- online services are banned from allowing links to news services on their platforms
unless they get a license to make links to the news; the rule does not define "news service" or "link," leaving 28 member states to make up their own definitions and leaving it to everyone else to comply with 28 different rules.
Under Article 13 -- the " censorship machines " -- anyone who allows users to communicate in public by posting audio, video, stills, code, or anything that might be copyrighted -- must send those posts to a copyright
enforcement algorithm. The algorithm will compare it to all the known copyrighted works (anyone can add anything to the algorithm's database) and censor it if it seems to be a match.
These extreme, unworkable proposals represent a
grave danger to the Internet. The link tax means that only the largest, best-funded companies will be able to offer a public space where the news can be discussed and debated. The censorship machines are a gift to every petty censor and troll (just claim
copyright in an embarrassing recording and watch as it disappears from the Internet!), and will add hundreds of millions to the cost of operating an online platform, guaranteeing that Big Tech's biggest winners will never face serious competition and
will rule the Internet forever.
That's terrible news for Europeans, but it's also alarming for all the Internet's users, especially Americans.
The Internet's current winners -- Google, Facebook, Twitter,
Apple, Amazon -- are overwhelmingly American, and they embody the American regulatory indifference to surveillance and privacy breaches.
But the Internet is global, and that means that different regions have the power to export
their values to the rest of the world. The EU has been a steady source of pro-privacy, pro-competition, public-spirited Internet rules and regulations, and European companies have a deserved reputation for being less prone to practicing "
surveillance capitalism " and for being more
thoughtful about the human impact of their services.
In the same way that California is a global net exporter of lifesaving emissions controls for vehicles, the EU has been a global net exporter of privacy rules, anti-monopoly
penalties, and other desperately needed corrections for an Internet that grows more monopolistic, surveillant, and abusive by the day.
Many of the cheerleaders for Articles 11 and 13 talk like these are a black eye for Google and
Facebook and other U.S. giants, and it's true that these would result in hundreds of millions in compliance expenditures by Big Tech, but it's money that Big Tech (and only Big Tech) can afford to part with. Europe's much smaller Internet companies need
It's not just Europeans who lose when the EU sells America's tech giants the right to permanently rule the Internet: it's everyone, because Europe's tech companies, co-operatives, charities, and individual technologists
have the potential to make everyone's Internet experience better. The U.S. may have a monopoly on today's Internet, but it doesn't have a monopoly on good ideas about how to improve tomorrow's net.
The global Internet means that
we have friends and colleagues and family all over the world. No matter where you are in the world today, please take ten minutes to get in touch with two friends in the EU , send them this article, and then ask them to get in touch with their
MEPs by visiting Save Your Internet .
There's only one Internet and we all live on it. Europeans rose up to kill
ACTA , the last brutal assault on Internet freedom, helping Americans fight our own government's short-sighted foolishness; now the rest of the world can return the favor to
our friends in the EU.
Back in 2001, the European Parliament came together to pass regulations and set up copyright laws for the internet, a technology that was just finding its footing after the dot com boom and bust. Wikipedia had just been born, and there were 29 million
websites. No one could imagine the future of this rapidly growing ecosystem -- and today, the internet is even more complex. Over a billion websites, countless mobile apps, and billions of additional users. We are more interconnected than ever. We are
more global than ever. But 17 years later, the laws that protect this content and its creators have not kept up with the exponential growth and evolution of the web.
Next week, the European Parliament will decide how information
online is shared in a vote that will significantly affect how we interact in our increasingly connected, digital world. We are in the last few moments of what could be our last opportunity to define what the internet looks like in the future. The next
wave of proposed rules under consideration by the European Parliament will either permit more innovation and growth, or stifle the vibrant free web that has allowed creativity, innovation, and collaboration to thrive. This is significant because
copyright does not only affect books and music, it profoundly shapes how people communicate and create on the internet for years to come.
This is why we must remember the original objective for this update to the law: to
make copyright rules that work for better access to a quickly-evolving, diverse, and open internet.
The very context in which copyright operates has changed completely. Consider Wikipedia, a platform which like much of the
internet today, is made possible by people who act as consumers and creators. People read Wikipedia, but they also write and edit articles, take photos for Wikimedia Commons, or contribute to other Wikimedia free knowledge projects. Content on Wikipedia
is available under a free license for anyone to use, copy, or remix.
Every month, hundreds of thousands of volunteers make decisions about what content to include on Wikipedia, what constitutes a copyright violation, and when
those decisions need to be revised . We like it this way -- it allows people, not algorithms, to make decisions about what knowledge should be presented back to the rest of the world.
Changes to the EU Directive on
Copyright in the Digital Single Market could have serious implications for Wikipedia and other independent and nonprofit websites like it.
The internet today is collaborative and open by nature. And that is why our
representatives to the EU must institute policies that promote the free exchange of information online for everyone.
We urge EU representatives to support reform that adds critical protections for public domain works of art,
history, and culture, and to limit new exclusive rights to existing works that are already free of copyright.
The world should be concerned about new proposals to introduce a system that would automatically filter information
before it appears online. Through pre-filtering obligations or increased liability for user uploads, platforms would be forced to create costly, often biased systems to automatically review and filter out potential copyright violations on their sites. We
already know that these systems are historically faulty and often lead to false positives. For example, consider the experience of a German professor who
repeatedly received copyright violation
notices when using public domain music from Beethoven, Bartók, and Schubert in videos on YouTube.
The internet has already created alternative ways to manage these issues. For instance, Wikipedia contributors already work hard
to catch and remove infringing content if it does appear. This system, which is largely driven by human efforts, is very effective at preventing copyright infringement.
Much of the conversation surrounding EU copyright reform has
been dominated by the market relationships between large rights holders and for-profit internet platforms. But this small minority does not reflect the breadth of websites and users on the internet today. Wikipedians are motivated by a passion for
information and a sense of community. We are entirely nonprofit, independent, and volunteer-driven. We urge MEPs to consider the needs of this silent majority online when designing copyright policies that work for the entire internet.
As amendments to the draft for a new Copyright Directive are considered, we urge the European Parliament to create a copyright framework that reflects the evolution of how people use the internet today. We must remember the original
problem policymakers set out to solve: to bring copyright rules in line with a dramatically larger, more complex digital world and to remove cross-border barriers. We should remain true to the original vision for the internet -- to remain an open,
accessible space for all.
In July MEPs voted down plans to fast-track the Copyright Directive, derailing Article 13's plan to turn Internet platforms into copyright enforcers.
Yet the fight to stop Article 13's vision of the Internet - one where all
speech is approved or rejected by an automated upload filter - is not over.
On 12 September MEPs will vote once again, but this time as of yet unknown amendments will be added to the mix. Bad ideas like Article 13 - and perhaps
worse - will be voted on individually, so it's not a simple up or down vote. To identify and oppose bad amendments, MEPs must understand exactly why Article 13 threatens free speech.
Many MEPs are undecided. Please write to them
now. You can use the points below to construct your own unique message. IF YOU'RE OUTSIDE THE UK use this tool instead: https://saveyourinternet.eu .
Oppose changes to Internet platform liability. If platforms become liable for user content, they will have no choice but to scan all uploads with automated filters.
Say no to upload filters.
Filters struggle to identify the vital legal exceptions to copyright that enable research, commentary, creative works, parody and more. Poor judgement means innocent speech gets blocked along with copyright violations.
Internet companies do not make good copyright enforcers. To avoid liability penalties, platforms will err on the side of caution and over-block.
Free speech takes precedence over copyright. Threatening free
expression is way too high a price to pay for the sake of copyright enforcement.
General monitoring of all content is technically infeasible. No filter can possibly review every form of content covered in Article 13's
extraorindarily wide mandate which includes text, audio, video, images and software.
If you are part of a tech business, or a creator, like a musician, photographer, video editor or a writer, let your MEP know!
We need copyright reform that does not threaten free expression The controversial Copyright Directive is fast approaching another pivotal vote on 12 September. For the third time in half a year MEPs will decide whether Article 13 - or
something even worse - will usher in a new era, where all content is approved or rejected by automated gatekeepers.
Seen through an economic lens the Directive's journey is viewed as a battle between rights holders and tech
giants. Yet a growing chorus of ordinary citizens, Internet luminaries, human rights organisations and creatives have rightly expanded the debate to encompass the missing human dimension.
Open Rights Group opposes Article 13 - or
any new amendments proposing similar ideas - because it poses a real threat to the fundamental right to free speech online.
Free speech defenders claimed a victory over industry lobbyists this summer when MEPs rejected plans to
fast-track the Directive and a lasting triumph is now in reach. UK residents are in an especially strong position to make a difference because many of their MEPs remain undecided. Unlike some other EU states, voting patterns aren't falling strictly on
party lines in the UK.
This time new amendments will be added, and the underlying principles of Article 13 will again face a vote. They include:
Changes to Internet platform liability
If Internet platforms become directly liable for user content, they will become de facto copyright enforcers. This will leave them little choice but to introduce general monitoring of all user content with automated filters. Companies
are not fit to police free speech. To avoid penalties they will err on the side of caution and over-block user content.
The Implicit or explicit introduction of upload filters
Everything we know
about automated filters shows they struggle to comprehend context. Yet identifying the vital legal exceptions to copyright that enable research, commentary,
creative works, parody and more requires a firm grasp of context. An algorithm's poor judgement will cause innocent speech to be routinely blocked along with copyright violations.
The introduction of general monitoring
General monitoring of all user content is a step backwards for a free and open Internet. It is also technically infeasible to monitor every form of content covered in Article 13's extraordinarily wide mandate which includes text,
audio, video, images and software.
Outspoken Article 13 cheerleader Axel Voss MEP said "Censorship machines is not what we intend to implement and no one in the European Parliament wants that." This is what happens when
copyright reform is pursued with little consideration to human rights.
The proposals within Article 13 would change the way that the Internet works, from free and creative sharing, to one where anything can be removed without
warning, by computers. This is far too high a price to pay for copyright enforcement. We need a copyright reform which does not sacrifice fundamental human and digital rights.
In 15 days' time, MEPs will again vote on censorship machines and link tax in copyright proposals of Article 13. The legislation would see platforms such as YouTube compelled to introduce upload filters, to prevent unlicensed content being offered to
the public. A new 'Love Music' campaign, bankrolled by powerful industry players, aims to ensure a thumbs-up from MEPs. But the opposition is out, in force.
In 2016, the European Commission announced plans to modernize EU copyright law, something
that was to later develop into a worldwide controversy. A major part of the proposal is Article 13, a text that aims to make online services liable for uploaded content unless they take effective and proportionate measures to prevent copyright
infringements. The implication is that platforms such as YouTube would be compelled to implement upload filtering and then proactively monitor to prevent future infringing uploads.
The #LOVEMUSIC campaign site asks visitors to add their signature
to the Make Internet Fair petition, which calls on EU decision-makers to recognize that platforms like YouTube are involved in reproducing and making our works available under copyright laws and ensure that the safe harbor non-liability regime does not
apply to them as it is meant for technical intermediaries only.
While most protests are taking place on the Internet, the platform that will be most affected by Article 13, opponents of the proposed legislation have been urged to gather in public
too. Julia Reda MEP previously published details of a day of action to take place yesterday in various locations around Europe, but that will be just the tip of the protest iceberg as September 12th draws closer.
Following their shock defeat in
July, major players in the music industry called foul, claiming that the protests had been automated and organized by big tech, something addressed by Reda recently. She wrote:
They're claiming the protest was all
fake, generated by bots and orchestrated by big internet companies. According to them, Europeans don't actually care about their freedom of expression.
We don't actually care about EU lawmaking enough to make our voices heard. We
will just stand idly by as our internet is restricted to serve corporate interests.
To prove these predictions wrong, one of the focal points of the 'NO' campaign is a
Change.org petition . At the time of writing it has in excess of 951,000 signatories, with the million target
probably just a few days away.
But it is not just the music companies that are 'Love Censorship'. Journalists from 20 countries joined the call for European MPs to approve the censorship proposals. News companies also see the article 13 censorship
rules as helping them to claim more money from the internet giants.
An open letter signed by more than 100 prominent journalists from major news outlets warns that the internet companies are fleecing of the media of their rightful revenue was morally
and democratically unjustifiable. The letter written by AFP foreign correspondent Sammy Ketz says:
We have become targets and our reporting missions cost more and more. Yet, even though (the media) pay for the content
and send the journalists who will risk their lives to produce a trustworthy, thorough and diverse news service, it is not they who reap the profits but the internet platforms, which help themselves without paying a cent.
It is as
if a stranger came along and shamelessly snatched the fruits of your labour.
Critics, however, argue the reform will lead to blanket censorship by tech platforms that have become an online hub for creativity, especially YouTube. They
say it will also restrict the usage of memes and remixes by everyday internet surfers.
Unfortunately the numbers taking to the street in protests yesterday weren't too great. Between 80 and 150 people came to the protest in Berlin, according to
various estimates, but most other events seemed to have fewer than two dozen. Based on photographs shared online, it seems that all of the protests combined drew between 500 and 800 people in total.
It would be foolish to expect a million people
to take to the streets over copyright legislation, and the lack of protest doesn't prove that Europeans don't object to Article 13. Certainly, some do. But the actual number seems smaller than hoped.
The US Supreme Court has been asked to take a look at a critical piece of internet law that shields ISPs and websites from legal action when their users pirate copyrighted stuff.
Porn studio Ventura Content has asked the court to review the
Digital Millennium Copyright Act ( DMCA ) for the first time since it was introduced 20 years ago, arguing that the legislation is outdated and needs reform.
The application comes as the law is being tested nationwide. This week, large internet
provider Cox settled out of court on the eve of a long-running and critical trial on the same issue: whether an organization can be held liable when people use its website, service, or platform to illegally access or distribute copyrighted work.
The copyright holders are arguing that websites and ISPs are paying lip-service to anti-piracy laws and failing to fulfill their obligations under DMCA. Under that law, if an ISP or website owner can be shown to be warning users that they are infringing copyright, with the threat of account termination, the businesses are given legal protection against being held liable for copyright infringement.
Ventura has appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the law as currently applied gives too much deference to ISPs and websites, producing a staggering dissonance between online and offline liability standards.
Following massive protests, the EU copyright reform plans were sent back to the drawing board last month. This means that the proposal will be opened up for changes, also to the controversial "upload filter" text. In support of this effort
and to show critics that the opposition is real, the protests will soon move beyond the web, to the streets of several European cities.
After years of careful planning and negotiating, the European Parliament was ready to vote on
its new copyright directive last month. With backing from large political factions and pretty much the entire entertainment industry, many assumed that proposal would pass.
They were wrong .
Directive was sent back to the drawing board following protests from legal scholars, Internet gurus, activists, and many members of the public. Article 13, often referred to as the "upload filter" proposal, was at the center of this pushback.
The vote was a massive blow to those who put their hope on the EU's proposed copyright changes. Following the failure of SOPA and ACTA, this was another disappointment, which triggered several entertainment industry insiders to
call foul play.
They claimed that the grassroots protests were driven by automated tools, which "spammed" Members of Parliament were with protest messages, noting that large tech companies such as Google were partly
This narrative is gaining attention from the mainstream media, and there are even calls for a criminal investigation into the matter.
Opponents of the upload filters clearly disagree. In part
triggered by the criticism, but more importantly, to ensure that copyright reform proposals will change for the better, they plan to move the protests to the streets of Europe later this month.
Julia Reda, the Pirate Party's
Member of European Parliament, is calling people to join these protests, to have their voices heard, and to show the critics that there are real people behind the opposition. Reda wrote:
We haven't won yet. After their
initial shock at losing the vote in July, the proponents of upload filters and the 'link tax' have come up with a convenient narrative to downplay the massive public opposition they faced.
They're claiming the protest was all
fake, generated by bots and orchestrated by big internet companies. According to them, Europeans don't actually care about their freedom of expression. We don't actually care about EU lawmaking enough to make our voices heard. We will just stand idly by
as our internet is restricted to serve corporate interests.
Thus far, nearly a million people have voiced their discontent with the copyright reform plans through an online petition. And if it's up to Reda, these
people should do the same away from their keyboard.
On September 12th, Members of Parliament will vote on the future of the Copyright Directive and the protests are planned two weeks earlier, on August 26th.
Our goal is clear: The Parliament must adopt alternatives for Article 11 and Article 13 that don't force platforms to install upload filters and don't threaten links and snippets with an
extra layer of copyright.
The public protests will take place in several cities including Berlin, Ljubljana, Prague, Stockholm, Vienna, and Warsaw. The organizers hope to gain the same momentum as the ACTA protests
did when hundreds of thousands of people marched the streets.
Against all the odds, but with the support of nearly a million Europeans , MEPs voted earlier this month to
reject the EU's proposed copyright reform--including controversial proposals to create a new "snippet" right for news publishers, and mandatory
copyright filters for sites that published user uploaded content.
The change was testimony to how powerful and fast-moving Net activists can be. Four weeks ago, few knew that these crazy provisions were even being considered. By
the June 20th vote, Internet experts were weighing in , and
wider conversations were starting on sites like Reddit.
The result was a vote on July
5th of all MEPS, which ended in a 318 against 278 victory in favour of withdrawing the Parliament's support for the languages. Now all MEPs will have a chance in September to submit new amendments and vote on a final text -- or reject the directive
While re-opening the text was a surprising set-back for Article 13 and 11, the battle isn't over: the language to be discussed on in September will be based on
the original proposal by the European Commission, from two years ago -- which included the first versions of the copyright filters, and
snippet rights. German MEP Axel Voss's controversial modifications will also be included in the debate, and there may well be a flood of other proposals, good and bad, from the rest of the European Parliament.
sizeable support for the original text: Article 11 and 13's loudest proponents, led by Voss, persuaded many MEPs to support them by arguing that these new powers would restore the balance between American tech giants and Europe's newspaper and creative
industries -- or "close the value gap", as their arguments have it.
But using mandatory algorithmic censors and new intellectual property rights to restore balance is like Darth Vader bringing balance to the Force: the
fight may involve a handful of brawling big players, but it's everybody else who would have to deal with the painful consequences.
That's why it remains so vital for MEPs to hear voices that represent the wider public interest.
academics , and redditors, everyone from small Internet businesses and celebrity Youtubers, spoke up in a way
that was impossible for the Parliament to ignore. The same Net-savvy MEPs and activists that wrote and fought for the GDPR put their names to challenge the idea that these laws would rein back American tech companies. Wikipedians stood up and were
counted: seven independent, European-language encyclopedias consensed to shut down on the day of the vote. European alternatives to Google, Facebook and
Twitter argued that this would set back their cause . And
European artists spoke up that the EU shouldn't be setting up censorship and ridiculous link rights in their name.
To make sure the right amendments pass in September, we need to keep that conversation going. Read on to find out what you can do, and who you should be speaking to.
Who Spoke Up In The European Parliament?
As we noted last week, the decision to challenge the JURI committee's language on Article 13 and 11 last week was not automatic -- a minimum of 78 MEPs needed to petition for it to be put to the vote. Here's
the list of those MEPs who actively stepped forward to stop the bill. Also heavily involved was Julia Reda, the Pirate Party MEP who worked
so hard on making the rest of the proposed directive so positive for copyright reform, and then re-dedicated herself to stopping the worst excesses of the JURI language, and
Marietje Schaake , the Parliament's foremost advocate for human rights online.
These are the core of the opposition to
Article 13 and 11. A look at that list, and the final list of
votes on July 5th, shows that the proposals have opponents in every corner of Europe's political map. It also shows that every MEP who voted for Article 13 and 11, has someone close to them politically who knows why it's wrong.
What happens now?
In the next few weeks, those deep in the minutiae of the Copyright directive will be crafting amendments for MEPs to vote on in September. The tentative schedule is that the amendments
are accepted until Wednesday September 5th, with a vote at 12:00 Central European Time on Wednesday September 12th.
The European Parliament has a fine tradition of producing a rich supply of amendments (the GDPR had thousands).
We'll need to coalesce support around a few key fixes that will keep the directive free of censorship filters and snippet rights language, and replace them with something less harmful to the wider Net.
Julia Reda already proposed
amendments. And one of Voss' strongest critics in the latest vote was Catherine Stihler, the Scottish MEP who had created and passed consumer-friendly directive language in her committee, which Voss ignored. (Here's her
barnstorming speech before the final vote.)
While we wait for those amendments to appear, the next step
is to keep the pressure on MEPs to remember what's at stake -- no mandatory copyright filters, and no new ancillary rights on snippets of text.
In particular, if you
talk to your MEP , it's important to convey how you feel these proposals will affect you . MEPs are hearing from giant tech and media companies. But they are only just
beginning to hear from a broader camp: the people of the Internet.
As we have been covering in the last couple of articles, a controversial EU Copyright Directive has been under discussion at the European Parliament, and in a surprising turn of events,
it voted to reject fast-tracking the tabled proposal by the JURI Committee which contained controversial proposals, particularly in
Art 11 and
Art 13 . The proposed Directive will now get a full discussion and debate in plenary in September.
surprising because for those of us who have been witnesses (and participants) to the Copyright Wars for the last 20 years, such a defeat of copyright maximalist proposals is practically unprecedented, perhaps with the exception of
SOPA/PIPA . For years we've had a familiar pattern in the passing of copyright legislation: a proposal has been made to enhance protection and/or
restrict liberties, a small group of ageing millionaire musicians would be paraded supporting the changes in the interest of creators. Only copyright nerds and a few NGOs and digital rights advocates would complain, their opinions would be ignored and
the legislation would pass unopposed. Rinse and repeat.
But something has changed, and a wide coalition has managed to defeat powerful media lobbies for the first time in Europe, at least for now. How was this possible?
The main change is that the media landscape is very different thanks to the Internet. In the past, the creative industries were monolithic in their support for stronger protection, and they included creators, corporations, collecting
societies, publishers, and distributors; in other words the gatekeepers and the owners were roughly on the same side. But the Internet brought a number of new players, the tech industry and their online platforms and tools became the new gatekeepers.
Moreover, as people do not buy physical copies of their media and the entire industry has moved towards streaming, online distributors have become more powerful. This has created a perceived imbalance, where the formerly dominating industries need to
negotiate with the new gatekeepers for access to users. This is why creators complain about a value gap between what they
perceive they should be getting, and what they actually receive from the giants.
The main result of this change from a political standpoint is that now we have two lobbying sides in the debate, which makes all the difference when
it comes to this type of legislation. In the past, policymakers could ignore experts and digital rights advocates because they never had the potential to reach them, letters and articles by academics were not taken into account, or given lip service
during some obscure committee discussion just to be hidden away. Tech giants such as Google have provided lobbying access in Brussels, which has at least levelled the playing field when it comes to presenting evidence to legislators.
As a veteran of the Copyright Wars, I have to admit that it has been very entertaining reading the reaction from the copyright industry lobby groups and their individual representatives, some almost going apoplectic with rage at
Google's intervention. These tend to be the same people who spent decades lobbying legislators to get their way unopposed, representing large corporate interests unashamedly and passing laws that would benefit only a few, usually to the detriment of
users. It seems like lobbying must be decried when you lose.
But to see this as a victory for Google and other tech giants completely ignores the large coalition that shares the view that the proposed Articles 11 and 13 are very
badly thought-out, and could represent a real danger to existing rights. Some of us have been fighting this fight when Google did not even exist, or it was but a small competitor of AltaVista, Lycos, Excite and Yahoo!
At the same
time that more restrictive copyright legislation came into place, we also saw the rise of free and open source software, open access, Creative Commons and open data. All of these are legal hacks that allow sharing, remixing and openness. These were
created precisely to respond to restrictive copyright practices. I also remember how they were opposed as existential threats by the same copyright industries, and treated with disdain and animosity. But something wonderful happened, eventually open
source software started winning (we used to buy operating systems), and Creative Commons became an important part of the Internet's ecosystem by propping-up valuable common spaces such as Wikipedia.
Similarly, the Internet has
allowed a great diversity of actors to emerge. Independent creators, small and medium enterprises, online publishers and startups love the Internet because it gives them access to a wider audience, and often they can bypass established gatekeepers. Lost
in this idiotic "Google v musicians" rhetoric has been the threat that both Art 11 and 13 represent to small entities. Art 11 proposes a new publishing right that has been proven to affect smaller players in Germany and Spain; while Art 13
would impose potentially crippling economic restrictions to smaller companies as they would have to put in place automated filtering systems AND redress mechanisms against mistakes. In fact, it has been often remarked that Art 13 would benefit existing
dominant forces, as they already have filtering in place (think ContentID).
Similarly, Internet advocates and luminaries see the proposals as a threat to the Internet, the people who know the Web best think that this is a bad
idea. If you can stomach it, read this thread featuring a copyright lobbyist attacking Neil Gaiman, who has been one of the Internet celebrities that
have voiced their concerns about the Directive.
Even copyright experts who almost never intervene in digital rights
affairs the have been vocal in their opposition to the changes.
And finally we have political representatives from various parties and backgrounds who have been vocally opposed to the changes. While the leader of the political
opposition has been the amazing Julia Reda, she has managed to bring together a variety of voices from other parties and countries. The vitriol launched at her has been unrelenting, but futile. It has been quite a sight to see her opponents both try to
dismiss her as just another clueless young Pirate commanded by Google, while at the same time they try to portray her as a powerful enemy in charge of the mindless and uninformed online troll masses ready to do her bidding.
the above managed to do something wonderful, which was to convey the threat in easy-to-understand terms so that users could contact their representatives and make their voice heard. The level of popular opposition to the Directive has been a great sight
Tech giants did not create this alliance, they just gave various voices access to the table. To dismiss this as Google's doing completely ignores the very real and rich tapestry of those defending digital rights, and it
is quite clearly patronising and insulting, and precisely the reason why they lost. It was very late until they finally realised that they were losing the debate with the public, and not even the last-minute deployment of musical dinosaurs could save the
But the fight continues, keep contacting your MEPs and keep applying pressure.
So who supported internet censorship in the EU parliamentary vote?
Mostly the EU Conservative Group and also
half the Social Democrat MEPs and half the Far Right MEPs