At the end of the month, the EU Parliament will vote on laws that have the potential to chill free speech and creativity on the internet around the world. This is the last chance for the public to express how important a free and open internet is to us.
The EU is close to passing a copyright reform law to update its copyright laws for the digital age. In many respects, the reforms are necessary to protect content creators’ and artists’ rights. However, two poorly-written articles are threatening to have a damaging effect on the freedom of expression online. These effects probably wouldn’t be limited to the EU, which is large enough to affect many website’s policies around the world.
The problem with Article 13 is that it would force major online content platforms like Youtube, Imgur, and perhaps even Facebook to severely restrict content uploads. The way the article does this is by making content platforms responsible for copyright violations. When a content platform receives millions of uploads per day, the only way it can protect itself from this liability is by automatically filtering copyrighted content. Without human oversight, which would be impossible, these filters wouldn’t be able to distinguish between fair use and true copyright violations.
The goal of Article 13 is to help protect content creators from copyright violations, which is a noble goal. However, the writers of the article don’t seem to have considered the collateral damage of this heavy-handed solution.
Article 11 would make content sites like news websites be able to charge platforms like Facebook for hosting links to their websites. Again, the heart of the law is arguably in the right place, but it would only serve to chill the sharing and dissemination of content online.
Here’s the idea: When we see headlines on social media, we often glance over them, gaining information without ever clicking and visiting the content. This law wants those websites to earn money just by having their links appear elsewhere. However, instead of providing struggling platforms with much-needed income, it would eliminate their readership completely. Rather than pay the link tax, content sharing platforms would simply block those links outright, preventing the content from being shared or seen.
We support online freedom of speech and expression, and we oppose online censorship. Artists’ copyrights need to be protected, but these laws need to be changed so that their rights are protected without damaging free speech.
Update (09/10/2021). The new copyright directive was slightly modified since 2019, but its main principles remain the same. EU countries had time until June 2021 to implement it, but the situation among member states vary as most of them are still polishing their local legislation drafts.
Since the UK left the EU, its government announced that it won’t implement the directive.
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