LONDON (AP) — The European Union has approved a copyright overhaul that aims to give more protection to artists and news organizations but which critics say will stifle freedom of speech and online creativity and punish smaller web companies.
Artists, celebrities and tech experts have spoken out both in favor and against the EU directive, which the 28 member states are required to adopt as law and got final approval from the European Council Monday.
Here’s a look at key issues.
WHAT DOES THE DIRECTIVE SAY?
The most vigorously debated part of the legislation is a section that makes companies responsible for making sure that copyrighted material isn’t uploaded to their platforms without permission from the original creator. It puts the legal onus on platforms to prevent copyright infringement but critics say it will end up having a chilling effect on freedom of expression on the internet and could result in censorship.
Another section of the bill that caused concern requires search engines and social media sites to pay for linking to or offering up snippets of news articles.
German Data Privacy Commissioner Ulrich Kelber is also a computer scientist, which makes him uniquely qualified to comment on the potential consequences of the proposed new EU Copyright Directive. The Directive will be voted on at the end of this month, and its Article 13 requires that online communities, platforms, and services prevent their users from committing copyright infringement, rather than ensuring that infringing materials are speedily removed.
In a new official statement on the Directive (English translation), Kelber warns that Article 13 will inevitably lead to the use of automated filters, because there is no imaginable way for the organisations that run online services to examine everything their users post and determine whether each message, photo, video, or audio clip is a copyright violation.
Kelber goes on to warn that this will exacerbate the already dire problem of market concentration in the tech sector, and expose Europeans to particular risk of online surveillance and manipulation.
That’s because under Article 13, Europe’s online companies will be required to block all infringement, even if they are very small and specialised (the Directive gives an online community three years’ grace period before it acquires this obligation, less time if the service grosses over €5m/year). These small- and medium-sized European services (SMEs) will not be able to afford to license the catalogues of the big movie, music, and book publishers, so they’ll have to rely on filters to block the unlicensed material.