In a plenary vote in September, the European Parliament backed the controversial Article 13 proposal, which is part of the EU’s copyright reform plans.
Since then, the proposal has been tweaked in an attempt to gain broader support, but thus far the critics have yet to be silenced. That includes rightsholders as well.
Most opposition is generated by anti upload filter activists though. They rallied support from the public through various online campaigns, including a prominent petition hosted on Change.org.
Yesterday the “Stop the censorship-machinery! Save the Internet!” petition passed four million signatures, making it one of the largest to be hosted on the platform. With these impressive numbers activists behind the SaveTheInternet campaign hope to make a change.
Tomorrow the SafeTheInternet team will hand over the signatures to copyright rapporteur Axel Voss at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The activists tried to do the same in July when the petition had roughly one million signees. At the time Voss wasn’t willing to accept them, but he has agreed to do so tomorrow.
The timing of the handover is not a mere coincidence. It’s scheduled a day ahead of the final trilogue meeting, during which lawmakers will try to reach agreement on the final test of Article 13 and other copyright reform proposals.
With the petition, the activists call on Members of the European Parliament to decide against directives such as Article 13 which may hamper freedom of information.
“This form of censorship could very soon destroy the cultural normatives of the internet as we know it. The blocking of uploads, in combination with faulty algorithms, will result in so called overblocking lead by the platforms, so that they can avoid legal violations,” the campaign website warns.
The latest Article 13 proposal, published by Politico this week, shows that the proposed language has been tweaked further still. Any references to upload filters were long gone, and it’s now clarified that Article 13 does not impose any monitoring obligation.
In addition, it suggests that platforms will be held liable if they fail to remove content following reports from copyright holders. Optionally, platforms may also be required to “make best efforts” to prevent these files from being uploaded. A so-called takedown and staydown policy.
In what appears to be a response to concerns from the public, the proposal also clarifies that enforcement measures should not prevent the availability of legitimate content. This includes fair use uploads for the purpose of criticism, review or parody.
While that sounds like good news, not everyone is convinced that this will work.
“This is the ‘nerd harder’ approach to regulating. It is magic wand regulating: make the bad stuff go away, and magically don’t have any collateral damage,” Techdirt’s Masnick comments.
That’s a fair point since large platforms simply can’t identify fair use content through algorithms. There is bound to be some collateral damage, which is already quite common as things stand today.
Responding to concerns from rightsholders in the audiovisual sector, the legislators clarified that they shouldn’t be worse off under Article 13 than they currently are.
It’s clear that the lawmakers are trying to appease both rightsholders and the public at large. The question remains, however, whether anyone will be truly pleased with the outcome of the negotiations.
The SafeTheInternet team remains on course though. They hope that the four million signatures will help to convince Members of Parliament to remain vigilant and ensure that their views are heard.