Online experts fear proposed EU copyright law change will damage internet

Joanna Estrada
June 22, 2018

Under current law, social networks and other media platforms were not responsible for checking the content users upload to their site until illegal content is flagged, meaning copyrighted material could be shared without owners' permission until someone notices.

Internet experts are also anxious about another provision adopted on Wednesday that would force internet platforms, such as Google, to pay publishers for showing snippets of news stories. Member states in May backed the Commission proposal with some amendments, including lowering the duration of the publishers' legal rights to one year from 20. Entitled "Article 13 of the EU Copyright directive Threatens the Internet", the letter describes the restrictions the law would place on users who want to upload music, video and photos, or contribute to open collaboration platforms like Wikipedia.

But the new laws could spell an end to music remixes, memes, and other user-generated content that borrows from copyrighted works.

Before the vote, activist Cory Doctorow wrote that the changes would be "self-destructive and unworkable", adding that the "European Parliament is genuinely about to turn this foolish, awful idea into the law of 28 countries". Both Article 13 and Article 11 have been passed by the European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs. She has vowed to continue to fight the proposal as it goes to a plenary vote in the European Parliament.

These proposals will make starting new internet companies effectively impossible - Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple, and the other USA giants will be able to negotiate favourable rates and build out the infrastructure to comply with these proposals, but no one else will.

"We urge all MEPs (members of parliament) to contest this report and to support balanced copyright rules, which respect online rights and support Europe's digital economy", CCIA's Maud Sacquet said. The internet is only as useful as the content that populates it.

At the heart of the European Union debate is Article 13, which is opposed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), as well as by academics, researchers, and even Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web. "We can still overturn this result and preserve the free internet". The vote is part of a broader backlash against technology companies.

Article 11, dubbed the "link tax" by its opponents, was suggested as a method to redistribute some of the profits that Google and Facebook make from sharing news content.

Google's system, known as Content ID, has helped the company pay about €2 billion to copyright holders in recent years, Marco Pancini, director of EU public policy at Google, said in remarks to the European Parliament Tuesday.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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