Freedom of online expression and freedom of information need you!
You use the Internet on a daily basis to communicate, to get informed and have fun. But Internet as you know it might cease to exist, if you do not take immediate action.
On June 20, 2018 the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament voted in favour of the Proposal for the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market.
The proposed Directive aims to harmonize the legal provisions in the Member States regarding copyrights, taking particularly into account the digital and cross-border uses of the protected content. In simple words, what the european legislator aspires to achieve is that all EU Member States are on the same page regarding copyrights in the contemporary digital single market. Everything seems fine up to here.
Nonetheless, the provisions of the proposed Directive and especially Article 13 are not safe from blunders and could jeopardize freedom of online expression and freedom of information.
Article 13 requires that Internet platforms use filters for any information uploaded by the users on the platform, in order to avoid copyright infringements.
What does this mean?
Content-recognition technologies will filter the posts of the Internet users to ascertain whether there has been a copyright violation in the content of the posts under question. Subsequently, based on the said filtering, the posts will be approved or prohibited. The risks from such a practice for freedom of online expression and information are obvious.
1. The Internet platforms will have excessive power
Under the new scheme platforms will have to filter the content, which they host, without any complaint regarding a copyright violation. Until now, legislation provided that content which violates copyright would get banned from the platform according to a procedure. This procedure commenced subsequently to a complaint filed by the alleged copyright owner. Now, any post will be subject to this filtering.
2. The available technology is not able to recognize posts which are made in the context of parody, criticism or reference for research and commentary
Although technology evolves rapidly, the available filtering mechanisms are not able to recognize the difference between legal and illegal content use, which is subject to copyrights, and which is used in research, commentary, even for criticism or parody (i.e. reference to artistic excerpts for commentary, reproduction of speeches for informing the public for current affairs, generation of parodies of a film -such as memes- or parodies of songs.
Therefore, the creativity of Internet users and freedom of online expression and information will be inevitably restricted. Additionally, the said filtering mechanisms will have to be supported by a whole army of employees of the Internet platform in question. These employees will proceed to a second phase of monitoring of all the posts for which the filtering mechanisms will have concluded that they infringe copyrights.
This is definitely a costly and time-consuming procedure and the extra cost for the extra employees might fall on the Internet user through a rise on the prices for Internet services or the introduction of annual or monthly fees in the various Internet platforms.
What can I do to prevent this?
On July 5 the European Parliament’s plenary will vote on the proposed Directive. Send today and email to the Greek Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and call them to vote against the proposed Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market.
A full list with the contact information of all the Greek MEPs can be found here.
Remember that every email counts. We must unite our voices and request all together from the Greek MEPs to vote against the proposed Directive. The preservation of freedom of online expression and information concerns us all and is a vital prerequisite for the proper functioning of democracy.
If you want to save time, you can use the following template. However, we suggest that you personalize your message as much as possible and express also your own concerns.
“ Subject: Vote against the proposed Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market
Dear Ms/Mr (Name),
I am sending this message because on July 5, the European Parliament plenary will vote on the proposed Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market.
This act will drastically change the form of the Internet, as we know it, for the worse. It will restrict significantly the right to freedom of online expression and information for all Greek and European Internet users.
Creativity and freedom of speech will be significantly damaged, since algorithms are not always able to recognize the difference between legal and illegal use of content, which is subject to copyrights, and which is used in research, commentary, even for criticism or parody. If the use of this content is regulated by automated systems, which take decisions the letter and not the spirit of law, creativity and freedom of online speech, will be inevitably restricted.
There are no appropriate technical means to implement Article 13. There is no recognition technology, which can monitor successfully all the forms of content which are included in the proposed Directive (text, audio, video, images and software).
Therefore, it is absurd to expect from the courts of the 27 Member-States to constantly judge on which would be the most appropriate technical means for the implementation of the proposed Directive on a case by case basis.
The Internet service providers should not become responsible for the implementation of the copyright legislation, as prescribed by Article 13. In order to achieve their compliance and avoid fines and sanctions, the companies will prefer to become overprotective in regards to copyright, thus restricting freedom of expression.
Providing the companies with the right to delete content for copyright violations will give them excessive power, since there is no provision for the protection of Internet users against such deletions -even if their content is legal.
Taking into account all the above, I call you to vote against the proposed Directive. In this way, the text of the proposal will become subject to review, in order for the requisite balance between copyright protection and protection of freedom of online expression and information to be found.
With best regards,