Torrentfreak commented on a draft document indicating some rather censorial legislation is being considered by the EU Commission. Torrentfreak explains:
A leaked document has revealed the EU Commission's plans for copyright in 2016. In addition to tackling the issue of content portability in the spring, the draft suggests the Commission will explore a follow-the-money approach to
enforcement, clarify rules for identifying infringers, and examine the crosss-border application of injunctions.
Noting that creative rights have little value if they cannot be enforced, the Commission calls for a balanced civil enforcement system to enable copyright holders to fight infringement more cheaply and across borders.
A 'follow-the-money' approach, which sees the involvement of different types of intermediary service providers, seems to be a particularly promising method that the Commission and Member States have started to apply in certain areas, the
It can deprive those engaging in commercial infringements of the revenue streams (for example from consumer payments and advertising) emanating from their illegal activities, and therefore act as a deterrent.
On this front the Commission says it intends to take immediate action to set up a self-regulatory mechanism with a view to reaching agreement next spring. While voluntary, the EU says the mechanism can be backed up by force if necessary.
The document also highlights a need to address the (cross-border) application of provisional and precautionary measures and injunctions . Clarification is needed, but this appears to be a reference to EU-wide site blocking.
Furthermore, the EU indicates it will examine the rules for copyright takedowns and the potential for illicit content to be taken down and remain down.
The Commission is also carrying out a comprehensive assessment and a public consultation on online platforms, which also covers 'notice and action' mechanisms and the issue of action remaining effective over time (the 'take down and stay
down' principle), the draft reads.
Finally, Julia Reda MEP is raising alarms over the Commission's intent to clarify the legal definition of communication to the public and of making available .
The Commission is considering putting the simple act of linking to content under copyright protection, Reda writes.
This idea flies in the face of both existing interpretation and spirit of the law as well as common sense. Each weblink would become a legal landmine and would allow press publishers to hold every single actor on the Internet liable.
Update: EU claims that it is not seeking a hyperlink tax or EU harmonised website blocking
Linx is a trade group of UK ISPs so has a keen interest on issues being discussed by the EU. Linx reports:
EU Commissioner Andrus Ansip has confirmed that forthcoming European copyright proposals will not include introduce ancillary copyright rules, and will not attempt to harmonise web-blocking laws across the EU.
In an interview with Politico, the European Commission Vice President for the Digital Single Market said that there were no plans to require news aggregators and pay publishers for the right to link to their content.
Ansip said that it was too early to tell what lessons would be learned from ancillary copyright laws recently passed in Spain and Germany.
Leaked EU Copyright Directive ignores ordinary internet users, presents limited reforms to support creators, researchers, teachers and librarians; while providing a sledgehammer of protectionist measures for the incumbent news, music and film
Several documents have been leaked from the European Commission providing a clear picture of the proposed reforms to copyright that will be presented later in the year. The picture is quite negative as the proposals range from the timid to the
openly regressive, such as the introduction of a new ancillary right for news publishers. Several key initiatives have been dropped, including changes to the current exceptions for "freedom of panorama" that allow taking pictures of
public art and buildings.
The new directive will complement and not replace current legislation such as the Infosoc Directive, although there are some minor technical modifications. Existing directives will not be reopened for discussion, thus limiting the possibilities
for reform in key areas such as Digital Rights Management. The directive applies to the European Economic Area (EEA) and will probably be relevant to the UK whatever shape Brexit eventually takes.
These leaks make the past two years of pre legislative discussions about comprehensive copyright reform feel like a waste of everyone's time, except of course for a few industry lobbyists. The EU is about to throw away the first chance in over a
decade to adapt copyright to the digital world, instead choosing classic protectionism for incumbent industries. These measures will not promote the creation of a vibrant digital industry in Europe capable of standing to Silicon Valley - as EU
Below we summarise the main contents of the leaked Directive. There are other initiatives in the wider package, including: a Regulation for online broadcasting, implementation of the Marrakesh treaty on accessibility for the visually impaired, a
broad package on copyright enforcement and more provisions to promote European works.
The contents of the Directive are a potpourri of initiatives that include some mandatory limited exceptions for culture and education and measures to help improve remunerations for creators, but in the main are openly about supporting right
holders and European industry.
Protectionist measures Publishers ancillary right
This is the most controversial "reform": the creation of a completely new intellectual property right that lasts for 20 years specific for news publishers, which adds a new layer of complexity to internet regulation. The new right has
the same scope as rights of reproduction and making available and it's covered by the same exceptions, including criticism or review. The EU is open in aiming to support the financial sustainability of news publishers, and the right does not
cover scientific or academic publishers. We are not completely clear on the situation of blogs, but the right is meant to cover only publications by a "service provider".
This right is meant to stop internet news aggregators to simply copy a portion of the news article and stopping revenues flowing to the original site. Similar initiatives in Germany and Spain had a disastrous effect on media access, but we will
need more time to fully understand how bad this one is. The
first analyses are extremely negative as the new right seems even less constrained than previous initiatives.
User uploaded content: Youtube Law
Another major concession to industry aiming to address the
"value gap" created by the disparity between the number of people watching content in platforms - basically Youtube - and the revenues received. The Directive forces relevant online platforms to seek licenses from rightsholders.
While there may a case for Google to share some of its profits with rightsholders it is unclear that copyright law is the best way to do it. This law will extend beyond Youtube with unpredictable effects on internet activities, as clever lawyers
cotton up to the new powers given to industry.
This new power goes to the heart of internet regulation: the (lack of) liability of intermediaries that enables content to be hosted and linked around, expressed in the E-commerce Directive. In principle the new power covers services that go
beyond providing "mere physical facilities" and perform and "act of communication to the public" by taking an active role in curating or promoting content, but this is not always clear cut.
The Directive does not include an obligation to monitor preemptively - which would contravene other laws - but it forces the implementation of technological protection measures to protect works, such as
Google's Content-ID - with transparency obligations towards rightsholders.
Fair remuneration for authors and performers
There are some positive measures to protect creators that include transparency over online media sales, powers to renegotiate contracts and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. Overall they seem positive albeit a bit weak, when compared
with the sledgehammers given to news publishers and the music industry.
New mandatory exceptions
These exceptions are positive but in all case limited when compared to the initial demands of libraries, educators and cultural institutions. They do not include many of the more far fetching reforms proposed by civil society and even the
The call for a mandatory exception for "freedom of panorama" campaigned for by many civil society groups including ORG fell on deaf ears. The Commission has simply stated in their documents that the status quo works fine, while politely
asking all countries to implement the exception.
Text and Data Mining exception
This exception allows the making of copies to perform analysis for scientific research by non-profit or public interest organisations. There is no compensation for rights holders and an explicit ban on contractual clauses overriding the
exception. Technical measures to restrict access or copying are allowed but should not affect the exception.
This is a positive move, although many research organisations and libraries had been asking for a broader scope as they feared that much important research may be excluded.
Online Teaching exception
The rationale for this exception is the lack of clarity on whether existing exceptions in Infosoc and Database Directive apply to online education, particularly cross border access . The exception covers only "educational
establishments," which must control access to the resources, and will likely exclude many online educational initiatives. The exception allows for licensing schemes to take precedence over the exception and this could be used to weaken the
Libraries, archives and similar cultural heritage institutions will be allowed to make necessary copies of works for preservation, but only of works in their permanent collections. The exception is only for internal copies and not for online
Supporting the digital market
A couple of fairly minor initiatives that are positive but of limited impact in the context of the once-in-twenty-years reform of copyright.
Out of commerce works
Libraries have been lobbying for a long time to be allowed to engage in collective licensing deals to digitise and distribute out of commerce works. They see this as both an extension of their mission and an opportunity to generate funds,
although in principle this is framed as non-commercial cost recovery of the costs of mass digitisation. The exception only applies to works first published in the EU. This is not a full free copying exception, but the option to enter extended
collective licensing deals without the need to get approval from every author. There is a six month compulsory notice in case authors are around and object.
Video on demand
The directive forces member states to create a voluntary "negotiation mechanism" with the support of and impartial body to help parties license work for VoD services.
In summary, a disappointing culmination of a two year discussion that started with high hopes of seeing Europe take bold moves to really modernise copyright. The legislative process starts now however and while the UK is in the EU ORG will
continue to try to influence the shape of these laws as they go through the European Parliament. We must also remember that this is all based on leaked documents and the European Commission may still make some changes.
Open Rights Group has criticised the European Commission's proposals for the Directive on Copyright in the Single Market, published today.
Executive Director Jim Killock said:
Thousands of EU citizens responded to the consultation on copyright, only for the Commission to ignore their concerns in favour of industry. The Commission's proposals would fail to harmonise copyright law and create a fair system for Internet
users, creators and rights holders. Instead we could see new regressive rights that compel private companies to police the Internet on behalf of rights holders.
Failure to introduce EU wide freedom of panorama exception
The failure to introduce a harmonised exception for freedom of panorama is both a lost opportunity and a direct snub to the thousands of people who responded to the Commission's consultation on this. It appears that the Commission has simply
ignored their opinions and made no mention of freedom of panorama in its proposals. Freedom of panorama is a copyright exception that allows members of the public to share pictures they've taken of public buildings and art. While this right
exists in the UK, many European countries do not have this exception, which means that innocuous holiday snaps can infringe copyright.
Compelling intermediaries to filter content
The proposals aim to compel intermediaries, such as YouTube, to prevent works that infringe copyright from appearing on their services through content identification technologies . This is effect would force sites to police their platforms on
behalf of rights holders through filters and other technologies that are a blunt instrument.
Such proposals could place unreasonable burdens on smaller operators and reduce innovation among EU tech companies. They will certainly lead to a greater number of incorrect takedowns, as "Robocopy" takedowns cannot take account of
fair quotation, parody, or even use of public domain material.
These plans could undermine the UK's hard-won right to parody copyright works. Folk songs and classical performances by amateurs are often misidentified and removed as infringing 'copies' of performances of professional musicians for instance.
New ancillary copyright for news publishers
The proposals suggest a new right for news publishers, designed to prevent search engines and news aggregators from reproducing snippets at the expense of publishers. Although, this is designed to protect the media industry, it had a disastrous
impact on news websites when similar proposals were introduced in Spain and Germany. It is also disproportionate that the proposed right would last 20 years, given that it applies to news.
Open Rights Group is the UK's leading grass roots digital rights organisation, campaigning for the right to privacy and free speech.
ORG's FAQs document on freedom of panorama is available
Meanwhile TorrentFreak has been speaking to Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda about the impossibility of the proposals for anyone except for US media giants. TorrentFreak reports:
Today, the European Commission published its long-awaited proposal to modernize the EU's copyright law. Among other things, it will require online services to install mandatory piracy filters. While the Commission intends to strengthen the
position of copyright holders, opponents warn that it will do more harm than good.
Despite earlier suggestions that geo-blocking would be banned for streaming portals such as Netflix, these ideas haven't made it into the final text. Instead, it introduces a wide range of reforms that improve the position of rights holders.
One of the suggestions that has a lot of people worried is Article 13, which requires online services to police pirated content. This means that online services, which deal with large volumes of user-uploaded content, must use fingerprinting and
filtering mechanisms to block copyright infringing files. The Commission demands:
The Commission proposal obliges such service providers to take appropriate and proportionate measures to ensure the protection of user-uploaded works, for example by putting in place content recognition technologies.
This could, for example, be similar to the Content-ID system YouTube has in place, which hasn't been without controversy itself. While the Commission stresses that small content platforms won't be subject to the requirement, the proposal doesn't
define what small means. It also fails to define what appropriate or effective content recognition systems are, creating a fair bit of uncertainty.
The Commission, however, notes that the changes are needed to reinforce the negotiating position of copyright holders, so they can sign licensing agreements with services that provide access to user uploaded content.
Perhaps not surprisingly, this language is directly aligned with recent calls from various music industry organizations. Just a few month ago the BPI asked for new legislation to prevent platforms like YouTube abusing safe harbor protections in
order to create royalty havens . With the current proposal, this wish has been partly granted.
TorrentFreak spoke with Pirate Party Member of Parliament Julia Reda who is fiercely against mandatory piracy filters.
There are countless problems with this approach. First of all, Google spent upwards of $60 million on the development of ContentID. Asking every startup or community project to make the same kind of investment is ludicrous.
Most services that deal with user-uploaded content can't invest millions into content recognition technologies so they would have to license it from others such as YouTube. This will only increase the already dominant positions of the major
In addition, she points out that automated systems often lead to overt mistakes and are poorly equipped to deal with the finer nuances of copyright.
Just because part of a copyright-protected work shows up in a video, that doesn't mean that the new work constitutes a copyright infringement.
There are numerous exceptions to copyright such as parody or quotation â?� different in every EU country â?� that could justify the re-use of part of a protected work. An algorithm can't detect that. It will take down lots of
legal remixes and mashups, thus stifling freedom of expression.
A valid comment, as we witnessed ourselves just a few days ago when one of our perfectly legal videos was inaccurately flagged as a copyright infringement.
YouTube aside, Reda stresses that there are many other platforms to which automated recognition systems are not well suited. Wikipedia, for example, which uses mostly Creative Commons licensed content, or services such as DeviantArt which hosts
user-uploaded artwork, or MuseScore that hosts sheet music.
There is no technology available that would reliably detect copyright infringements in these formats. The Commission is asking Internet companies to do the impossible, thus endangering collaborative communities on the Internet as well as
And there is already a campaign in place against the EU's nasty proposals. The SaveTheLink campaign via OpenMedia writes:
The EU Commission has officially released some of the worst copyright laws in the world, including unprecedented new Link Tax powers for publishing giants.
Despite opposition from over 100,000 Internet users and dozens of other advocacy groups, the EU Commission has charged ahead with its wrong-headed plan. This will affect Internet users around the world.
This comes on the heels of a major court ruling that undermined our right to use hyperlinks. 4 This means it's more important than ever that EU decision-makers do what they can to stop this dangerous #LinkTax plan. 5
The link tax could make some of your favourite content virtually disappear from search engines. Users all over the world will be impacted.
The European Commission says Internet hosts should pre-censor everything we upload to the Internet for copyright violations. The UK agrees.
Tell the UK's Intellectual Property Office (IPO) we don't want rights holders to monitor and filter the Internet!
The European Commission has published plans to force Internet companies to filter everything we upload in case it infringes copyright laws. The UK's Intellectual Property Office wants our views on the European Commission's plans. The UK
Government is minded to support the plans if they can get them to work.
This could block Downfall parodies, campaign videos, TV clips, memes, profile pics -- anything that appears to reuse copyright content, even if it is legal to do so.
We need to stop this censorious, privacy-invading, anti-innovation proposal. Users of social media, photo, music and video sharing sites would all be hit hard.
Any company that lets you upload content to the Internet would check everything you upload against a database of copyright works - a massive violation of privacy in order to create this censorship regime.
If you want to insist on your right to publish, you'd have to supply your name and address and agree that you can be prosecuted by the rightsholder. That will put most people off taking the risk, even if they are within their rights to do so. And
if rightsholder think that websites aren't monitoring their users' uploads closely enough, they can take those websites to court too.
Companies including Google and Facebook could face repressive legislation if they don't proactively remove illegal content from their platforms that is deemed illegal. That's according to draft EU censorship rules due to be published at the end
of the month, which will require internet service providers to significantly step up their actions to address the EU's demands.
In the current climate, creators and distributors are forced to play a giant game of whac-a-mole to limit the unlicensed spread of their content on the Internet.
The way the law stands today in the United States, EU, and most other developed countries, copyright holders must wait for content to appear online before sending targeted takedown notices to hosts, service providers, and online platforms.
After sending several billion of these notices, patience is wearing thin, so a new plan is beginning to emerge. Rather than taking down content after it appears, major entertainment industry groups would prefer companies to take proactive action.
The upload filters currently under discussion in Europe are a prime example but are already causing controversy .
The guidelines are reportedly non-binding but further legislation in this area isn't being ruled out for Spring 2018, if companies fail to address the EU's demands.
Interestingly, however, a Commission source told Reuters that any new legislation would not change the liability exemption for online platforms. Maintaining these so-called safe harbors is a priority for online giants such as Google and Facebook
203 anything less would almost certainly be a deal-breaker.
The guidelines, due to be published at the end of September, will also encourage online platforms to publish transparency reports. These should detail the volume of notices received and actions subsequently taken. The guidelines contain some
safeguards against excessive removal of content, such as giving its owners a right to contest such a decision.
Under disgraceful plans set out last year by the European Commission, news publishers would get extra rights over their content, giving them the right to charge and licence publishers seeking to use snippets or short quotes from articles. The
policy has been dubbed 'the link tax'.
Now a key committee of the European Parliament, the Industry, Research and Energy Committee, wants to extend the proposals so that these rights would also cover publishers of academic research. Surely a nightmare for open access and open science.
Researchers might have to pay, or might at least have to ask for permission, every time they want to quote another academic's work in their piece.
If the proposed ancillary right is extended to academic publications, researchers, students and other users of scientific and scholarly journal articles could be forced to ask permission or pay fees to the publisher for including short quotations
from a research paper in other scientific publications, according to an open letter from Science Europe.
But even if this latest amendment is not adopted, the wider plan could still make it much harder for everyone, including researchers, to include quotations from news articles in their work, the organisation fears. For example, students might have
to buy a licence for every newspaper quote they use in a thesis. Links to news and the use of titles, headlines and fragments of information could now become subject to licensing. Terms could make the last two decades of news less accessible to
researchers and the public, leading to a distortion of the public's knowledge and memory of past events.
Next week, MEPs on the European Parliament's powerful Civil Liberties committee will vote on whether to approve the Link Tax and mass content filtering. With your help we've been relentlessly fighting to put a stop to this disastrous duo of
copyright policy, and this is what all that pressure and hard work comes down to.
Let's be clear: these proposals are abusing copyright to censor the Internet. Backed by powerful publishing lobbyists and unelected European Commissioners, they include sweeping powers for media giants to charge fees for links, and requirements
that websites build censorship machines to monitor and block your content. But with the help of tens of thousands of EU citizens, we've made clear to the European Parliament just how dangerous and unpopular these censorship proposals really are.
The European Commission has a well-deserved reputation for bizarre, destructive, ill-informed copyright plans for the internet , and the latest one is no exception: mandatory copyright filters for any site that allows the public to post
material, which will algorithmically determine which words, pictures and videos are lawful to post, untouched by human hands.
These filters already exist, for example in the form of Youtube's notoriously hamfisted Content ID system, which demonstrates just how bad robots are at figuring out copyright law. But even if we could make filters that were 99% accurate, this
would still be a catastrophe on a scale never seen in censorship's long and dishonorable history: when you're talking about hundreds of billions of tweets, Facebook updates, videos, pictures, posts and uploads, a 1% false-positive rate would
amount to the daily suppression of the entire Library of Alexandria, or all the TV ever broadcast up until, say, 1980.
Last week, the European Parliament's MEP in charge of overhauling the EU's copyright laws did a U-turn on his predecessor's position. Axel Voss is charged with making the EU's copyright laws fit for the Internet Age, yet in a staggering disregard
for advice from all quarters, he decided to include a obligation on websites to automatically filter content.
Article 13 sets out how online platforms should manage user-uploaded content appears to have the most dangerous implications for fundamental rights. Never mind that the new Article 13 proposal runs directly contrary to an existing EU law -- the
eCommerce Directive - which prohibits member states from imposing general monitoring obligations on hosting providers.
Six countries -- Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, and the Netherlands -- sought advice from the Council's Legal Service last July, asked specifically if the standalone measure/obligation as currently proposed under Article
13 [would] be compatible with the Charter of Human Rights and queried are the proposed measures justified and proportionate? But this does not seem to have been addressed.
The aim of the rule, which is in line with the European Commission's proposals more than a year ago, is to strengthen the music industry in negotiations with the likes of YouTube, Dailymotion, etc. Under Voss' revised Article 13, websites and
apps that allow users to upload content must acquire copyright licenses for EVERYTHING, something that is in practice impossible. If they cannot, those platforms must filter all user-uploaded content.
The truth is that this latest copyright law proposal favors the rights-holders above anyone else. And we though MEPs represented the people.
The EU is mooting a new copyright regime for the largest market in the world, and the Commissioners who are drafting the new rules are completely captured by the entertainment industry, to the extent that they have ignored their own experts and
produced a farcical Big Content wishlist that includes the most extensive internet censorship regime the world has ever seen, perpetual monopolies for the biggest players, and a ban on European creators using Creative Commons licenses to share
Since these filter systems are incredibly expensive to create and operate, anyone who wants to get into business competing with the companies that grew large without having to create systems like these will have to source hundreds of millions in
capital before they can even enter the market. Youtube 2018 can easily afford Content ID; Youtube 2005 would have been bankrupted if they'd had to build it.
And then there's the matter of banning Creative Commons licenses.
In order to bail out the largest newspapers in the EU, the Commission is proposing a Link Tax -- a fee that search engines and sites like Boing Boing will have to pay just for the right to link to news stories on the web. This idea has been tried
before in Spain and Germany and the newspapers who'd called for it quickly admitted it wasn't working and stopped using it.
But the new, worse-than-ever Link Tax contains a new wrinkle: rightsholders will not be able to waive the right to be compensated under the Link Tax. That means that European creators -- who've released hundreds of millions of works under
Creative Commons licenses that allow for free sharing without fee or permission -- will no longer be able to choose the terms of a Creative Commons license; the inalienable, unwaivable right to collect rent any time someone links to your
creations will invalidate the core clause in these licenses.
The European Copyright Directive was enacted in 2001 and is now woefully out of date. Thanks in large part to the work of Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda, many good ideas for updating European copyright law were put forward in a report of the
European Parliament in July 2015. The European Commission threw out most of these ideas, and instead released a legislative proposal in October 2016 that focused on giving new powers to publishers. That proposal was referred to several of the
committees of the European Parliament, with the Parliament's Legal Affairs (JURI) Committee taking the lead.
As the final text must also be accepted by the Council of the European Union (which can be considered as the second part of the EU's bicameral legislature), the Council Presidency has recently been weighing in with its own "compromise"
proposals (although this is something of a misnomer, as they do little to improve the Commission's original text, and in some respects make it worse). Not to be outdone, German MEP (Member of the European Parliament) Axel Voss last month
introduced a new set of his own proposals [PDF] for "compromise," which are somehow worse still. Since Voss leads the JURI committee, this is a big problem.
Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market destined to become a nightmare
OPEN LETTER IN LIGHT OF THE 27 APRIL 2018 COREPER I MEETING
Your Excellency Ambassador, cc. Deputy Ambassador,
We, the undersigned, are writing to you ahead of your COREPER discussion on the proposed Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market.
We are deeply concerned that the text proposed by the Bulgarian Presidency in no way reflects a balanced compromise, whether on substance or from the perspective of the many legitimate concerns that have been raised. Instead, it represents a
major threat to the freedoms of European citizens and businesses and promises to severely harm Europe's openness, competitiveness, innovation, science, research and education.
A broad spectrum of European stakeholders and experts, including academics, educators, NGOs representing human rights and media freedom, software developers and startups have repeatedly warned about the damage that the proposals would cause.
However, these have been largely dismissed in rushed discussions taking place without national experts being present. This rushed process is all the more surprising when the European Parliament has already announced it would require more time
(until June) to reach a position and is clearly adopting a more cautious approach.
If no further thought is put in the discussion, the result will be a huge gap between stated intentions and the damage that the text will actually achieve if the actual language on the table remains:
Article 13 (user uploads) creates a liability regime for a vast area of online platforms that negates the E-commerce Directive, against the stated will of many Member States, and without any proper assessment of its impact. It creates a new
notice and takedown regime that does not require a notice. It mandates the use of filtering technologies across the board.
Article 11 (press publisher's right) only contemplates creating publisher rights despite the many voices opposing it and highlighting it flaws, despite the opposition of many Member States and despite such Member States proposing several
alternatives including a "presumption of transfer".
Article 3 (text and data mining) cannot be limited in terms of scope of beneficiaries or purposes if the EU wants to be at the forefront of innovations such as artificial intelligence. It can also not become a voluntary provision if we want to
leverage the wealth of expertise of the EU's research community across borders.
Articles 4 to 9 must create an environment that enables educators, researchers, students and cultural heritage professionals to embrace the digital environment and be able to preserve, create and share knowledge and European culture. It must be
clearly stated that the proposed exceptions in these Articles cannot be overridden by contractual terms or technological protection measures.
The interaction of these various articles has not even been the subject of a single discussion. The filters of Article 13 will cover the snippets of Article 11 whilst the limitations of Article 3 will be amplified by the rights created through
Article 11, yet none of these aspects have even been assessed.
With so many legal uncertainties and collateral damages still present, this legislation is currently destined to become a nightmare when it will have to be transposed into national legislation and face the test of its legality in terms of the
Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Bern Convention.
We hence strongly encourage you to adopt a decision-making process that is evidence-based, focussed on producing copyright rules that are fit for purpose and on avoiding unintended, damaging side effects.
The over 145 signatories of this open letter -- European and global organisations, as well as national organisations from 28 EU Member States, represent human and digital rights, media freedom, publishers, journalists, libraries, scientific and
research institutions, educational institutions including universities, creator representatives, consumers, software developers, start-ups, technology businesses and Internet service providers.
EUROPE 1. Access Info Europe. 2. Allied for Startups. 3. Association of European Research Libraries (LIBER). 4. Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties). 5. Copyright for Creativity (C4C). 6. Create
Refresh Campaign. 7. DIGITALEUROPE. 8. EDiMA. 9. European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations (EBLIDA). 10. European Digital Learning Network (DLEARN). 11. European Digital Rights
(EDRi). 12. European Internet Services Providers Association (EuroISPA). 13. European Network for Copyright in Support of Education and Science (ENCES). 14. European University Association (EUA). 15. Free Knowledge Advocacy
Group EU 16. Lifelong Learning Platform. 17. Public Libraries 2020 (PL2020). 18. Science Europe. 19. South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO). 20. SPARC Europe.
AUSTRIA 21. Freischreiber Österreich. 22. Internet Service Providers Austria (ISPA Austria).
BELGIUM 23. Net Users' Rights Protection Association (NURPA)
BULGARIA 24. BESCO -- Bulgarian Startup Association. 25. BlueLink Foundation. 26. Bulgarian Association of Independent Artists and Animators (BAICAA). 27. Bulgarian Helsinki Committee. 28. Bulgarian Library and
Information Association (BLIA). 29. Creative Commons Bulgaria. 30. DIBLA. 31. Digital Republic. 32. Hamalogika. 33. Init Lab. 34. ISOC Bulgaria. 35. LawsBG. 36. Obshtestvo.bg. 37. Open Project
Foundation. 38. PHOTO Forum. 39. Wikimedians of Bulgaria. C ROATIA 40. Code for Croatia
CYPRUS 41. Startup Cyprus
CZECH R EPUBLIC 42. Alliance pro otevrene vzdelavani (Alliance for Open Education)
43. Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic. 44. Czech Fintech Association. 45. Ecumenical Academy. 46. EDUin.
DENMARK 47. Danish Association of Independent Internet Media (Prauda) E STONIA. 48. Wikimedia Eesti
FINLAND 49. Creative Commons Finland. 50. Open Knowledge Finland. 51. Wikimedia Suomi.
FRANCE 52. Abilian. 53. Alliance Libre. 54. April. 55. Aquinetic. 56. Conseil National du Logiciel Libre (CNLL). 57. France Digitale. 58. l'ASIC. 59. Ploss Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (PLOSS-RA). 60.
Renaissance Numérique. 61. Syntec Numérique. 62. Tech in France. 63. Wikimédia France.
GERMANY 64. Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Medieneinrichtungen an Hochschulen e.V. (AMH). 65. Bundesverband Deutsche Startups. 66. Deutscher Bibliotheksverband e.V. (dbv). 67. eco -- Association of the Internet
Industry. 68. Factory Berlin. 69. Initiative gegen ein Leistungsschutzrecht (IGEL). 70. Jade Hochschule Wilhelmshaven/Oldenburg/Elsfleth. 71. Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). 72. Landesbibliothekszentrum
Rheinland-Pfalz. 73. Silicon Allee. 74. Staatsbibliothek Bamberg. 75. Ubermetrics Technologies. 76. Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Sachsen-Anhalt (Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg). 77. University Library of
Kaiserslautern (Technische Universität Kaiserslautern). 78. Verein Deutscher Bibliothekarinnen und Bibliothekare e.V. (VDB). 79. ZB MED -- Information Centre for Life Sciences.
GREECE 80. Greek Free Open Source Software Society (GFOSS)
HUNGARY 81. Hungarian Civil Liberties Union. 82. ICT Association of Hungary -- IVSZ. 83. K-Monitor
IRELAND 84. Technology Ireland
ITALY 85. Hermes Center for Transparency and Digital Human Rights. 86. Istituto Italiano per la Privacy e la Valorizzazione dei Dati. 87. Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights (CILD). 88. National Online
Printing Association (ANSO).
LATVIA 89. Startin.LV (Latvian Startup Association). 90. Wikimedians of Latvia User Group.
LITHUANIA 91. Aresi Labs.
LUXEMBOURG. 92. Frënn vun der Ënn.
93. Commonwealth Centre for Connected Learning
NETHERLANDS 94. Dutch Association of Public Libraries (VOB) 95. Kennisland.
POLAND 96. Centrum Cyfrowe. 97. Coalition for Open Education (KOED). 98. Creative Commons Polska. 99. Elektroniczna BIBlioteka (EBIB Association). 100. ePan@stwo Foundation. 101. Fundacja Szkola z Klasa@
(School with Class Foundation). 102. Modern Poland Foundation. 103. Os@rodek Edukacji Informatycznej i Zastosowan@ Komputerów w Warszawie (OEIiZK). 104. Panoptykon Foundation. 105. Startup Poland. 106. ZIPSEE.
PORTUGAL 107. Associação D3 -- Defesa dos Direitos Digitais (D3). 108. Associação Ensino Livre. 109. Associação Nacional para o Software Livre (ANSOL). 110. Associação para a Promoção e Desenvolvimento da Sociedade da
ROMANIA 111. ActiveWatch. 112. APADOR-CH (Romanian Helsinki Committee). 113. Association for Technology and Internet (ApTI) 114. Association of Producers and Dealers of IT&C equipment (APDETIC). 115. Center for Public
Innovation. 116. Digital Citizens Romania. 117. Kosson.ro Initiative. 118. Mediawise Society. 119. National Association of Public Librarians and Libraries in Romania (ANBPR).
SLOVENIA 122. Digitas Institute. 123. Forum za digitalno dru@bo (Digital Society Forum).
SPAIN 124. Asociación de Internautas. 125. Asociación Española de Startups (Spanish Startup Association)
126. MaadiX. 127. Sugus. 128. Xnet.
SWEDEN 129. Wikimedia Sverige
UK 130. Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance (LACA). 131. Open Rights Group (ORG). 132. techUK.
GLOBAL 133. ARTICLE 19. 134. Association for Progressive Communications (APC). 135. Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT). 136. COMMUNIA Association. 137. Computer and Communications Industry Association
(CCIA). 138. Copy-Me. 139. Creative Commons. 140. Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). 141. Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL). 142. Index on Censorship. 143. International Partnership for Human Rights
(IPHR). 144. Media and Learning Association (MEDEA). 145. Open Knowledge International (OKI). 146. OpenMedia. 147. Software Heritage
The pending update to the EU Copyright Directive is coming up for a committee vote on June 20 or 21 and a parliamentary vote either in early July or late September. While the directive fixes some longstanding problems with EU rules, it creates
much, much larger ones: problems so big that they threaten to wreck the Internet itself.
Under Article 13 of
the proposal , sites that allow users to post text, sounds, code, still or moving images, or other copyrighted works for public consumption will have to filter all their users' submissions against a database of copyrighted works. Sites will
have to pay to license the technology to match submissions to the database, and to identify near matches as well as exact ones. Sites will be required to have a process to allow rightsholders to update this list with more copyrighted works.
Even under the best of circumstances, this presents huge problems. Algorithms that do content-matching are frankly terrible at it. The Made-in-the-USA version of this is YouTube's Content ID system, which improperly flags legitimate works all the
time, but still gets flack from entertainment companies for not doing more.
There are lots of legitimate reasons for Internet users to upload copyrighted works. You might upload a clip from a nightclub (or a protest, or a technical presentation) that includes some copyrighted music in the background. Or you might just be
wearing a t-shirt with your favorite album cover in your Tinder profile. You might upload the cover of a book you're selling on an online auction site, or you might want to post a photo of your sitting room in the rental listing for your flat,
including the posters on the wall and the picture on the TV.
Wikipedians have even more specialised reasons to upload material: pictures of celebrities, photos taken at newsworthy events, and so on.
But the bots that Article 13 mandates will not be perfect. In fact, by design, they will be wildly imperfect.
Article 13 punishes any site that fails to block copyright infringement, but it won't punish people who abuse the system. There are no penalties for falsely claiming copyright over someone else's work, which means that someone could upload all of
Wikipedia to a filter system (for instance, one of the many sites that incorporate Wikpedia's content into their own databases) and then claim ownership over it on Twitter, Facebook and Wordpress, and everyone else would be prevented from quoting
Wikipedia on any of those services until they sorted out the false claims. It will be a lot easier to make these false claims that it will be to figure out which of the hundreds of millions of copyrighted claims are real and which ones are
pranks or hoaxes or censorship attempts.
Article 13 also leaves you out in the cold when your own work is censored thanks to a malfunctioning copyright bot. Your only option when you get censored is to raise an objection with the platform and hope they see it your way--but if they fail
to give real consideration to your petition, you have to go to court to plead your case.
Article 13 gets Wikipedia coming and going: not only does it create opportunities for unscrupulous or incompetent people to block the sharing of Wikipedia's content beyond its bounds, it could also require Wikipedia to filter submissions to the
encyclopedia and its surrounding projects, like Wikimedia Commons. The drafters of Article 13 have
tried to carve Wikipedia out of the rule , but thanks to sloppy drafting, they have failed: the exemption is limited to "noncommercial activity". Every file on Wikipedia is licensed for commercial use.
Then there's the websites that Wikipedia relies on as references. The fragility and impermanence of links is already a serious problem for Wikipedia's crucial footnotes, but after Article 13 becomes law, any information hosted in the EU might
disappear--and links to US mirrors might become infringing--at any moment thanks to an overzealous copyright bot. For these reasons and many more,
the Wikimedia Foundation has taken a public position condemning Article 13.
Speaking of references: the problems with the new copyright proposal don't stop there. Under Article 11, each member state will get to create a new copyright in news. If it passes, in order to link to a news website, you will either have to do so
in a way that satisfies the limitations and exceptions of all 28 laws, or you will have to get a license. This is fundamentally incompatible with any sort of wiki (obviously), much less Wikipedia.
It also means that the websites that Wikipedia relies on for its reference links may face licensing hurdles that would limit their ability to cite their own sources. In particular, news sites may seek to withhold linking licenses from critics who
want to quote from them in order to analyze, correct and critique their articles, making it much harder for anyone else to figure out where the positions are in debates, especially years after the fact. This may not matter to people who only pay
attention to news in the moment, but it's a blow to projects that seek to present and preserve long-term records of noteworthy controversies. And since every member state will get to make its own rules for quotation and linking, Wikipedia posts
will have to satisfy a patchwork of contradictory rules, some of which are already so severe that they'd ban any items in a "Further Reading" list unless the article directly referenced or criticized them.
The controversial measures in the new directive have been tried before. For example, link taxes were tried in Spain and Germany and
they failed , and
publishers don't want them . Indeed, the only country to embrace this idea as workable is
China , where mandatory copyright enforcement bots have become part of the national toolkit for controlling public discourse.
Articles 13 and 11 are poorly thought through, poorly drafted, unworkable--and dangerous. The collateral damage they will impose on every realm of public life can't be overstated. The Internet, after all, is inextricably bound up in the daily
lives of hundreds of millions of Europeans and
an entire constellation of sites and services will be adversely affected by Article 13. Europe can't afford to place education, employment, family life, creativity, entertainment, business, protest, politics, and a thousand other activities
at the mercy of unaccountable algorithmic filters. If you're a European concerned about these proposals,
here's a tool for contacting your MEP .
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 .
The Copyright 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 behind this.
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
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
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 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 not apply.
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.
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 Internet.
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, and
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
New 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
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 these outlets.
Following Wednesday's vote, EU lawmakers will now take the legislation to talks with the European Commission and the 28 EU countries.
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 content creators.
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
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 expected.
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.
The 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
This was a bad day for the Internet and for the European Union: but we can make sure there are better days to come.