EU Parliament Report Recommends Throwing Out Something Even Worse Than The Link Tax: Upload Filtering
from the save-the-meme dept
Techdirt has just written about how a report from the European Parliament's "rapporteur" -- basically, the subject lead -- on planned reforms to EU copyright law recommends dumping one of the most stupid ideas in the draft proposals, a link or "snippets" tax. Although that's good news, it shouldn't come as a huge surprise. After all, the idea has already been tried in Germany and Spain, and failed dismally both times. The damage that a link tax would cause to the smooth functioning of the Web is so obvious that the only people refusing to acknowledge that fact are the publishers who have been demanding this new "right" as part of their copyright maximalism. But alongside the ridiculous snippets tax, there's another extremely dangerous idea that the European Commission has slipped into its copyright reform. Article 13 of the published draft (pdf) reads as follows:
Information society service providers that store and provide to the public access to large amounts of works or other subject-matter uploaded by their users shall, in cooperation with rightholders, take measures to ensure the functioning of agreements concluded with rightholders for the use of their works or other subject-matter or to prevent the availability on their services of works or other subject-matter identified by rightholders through the cooperation with the service providers. Those measures, such as the use of effective content recognition technologies, shall be appropriate and proportionate.
That is, those running online sites where users upload large quantities of material would be obliged to filter all those files to check for copyright material by using some unspecified, possibly magical, "content recognition technologies" that can tell when something is illegal or not. The problems with this are many and deep, as a post on the EDRi site explains:
the proposal of the Commission would require private companies to police the internet, in direct contradiction to two separate European Court rulings. The proposal would eliminate our freedoms to remix, to parody and others, in explicit breach of the EU's obligations contained in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.
The good news is that Therese Comodini Cachia, the rapporteur who wants to drop the link tax, also has some sensible suggestions for how to fix this "censorship machine":
In the leaked proposed amendments [to the new EU copyright law], Ms Comodini has deleted key aspects of the section of the draft Directive and amended the proposal in a way which would minimise the worst aspects of the censorship machine. Moreover, she has correctly restated the liability rules which exist in current EU legislation (the e-Commerce Directive). She advocates for the licensing agreements that were the ostensible goal of the European Commission in the first place.
However, it would be premature to celebrate this outbreak of good sense. Although it seems quite likely that the European Parliament will agree with the recommendations of its rapporteur here, the European Commission and national governments of the member states may disagree, and still try to keep Article 13 in its current form because of pressure from lobbyists. Ultimately, that would lead to EU negotiations behind closed doors and compromises that could see upload filtering retained with some modifications and perhaps token safeguards.
Fortunately, there is still some time to mobilize public opinion here. Although upload filtering seems an obscure, rather technical issue, it threatens some very fundamental Internet freedoms like remixing and creating parodies. As part of an effort to reach a broader audience, the Dutch Bits of Freedom digital rights group has put together a simple site called "Save the Meme," which encourages EU citizens to contact their MEPs to make sure as many as possible vote against Article 13, sending a strong signal to the European Commission and national governments that it has to go -- just like the link tax.