The European Union is set to vote on a copyright proposal that will require platforms hosting user-generated content to automatically scan and filter anything that their users upload (see the EU Commission’s proposed Article 13 of the Copyright Directive) on June 20th or 21st.
We urge the European Parliament to reject this proposal. We encourage Internet users to go to https://saveyourinternet.eu to take action.
The main purpose of Article 13 is to limit music and videos on streaming platforms, based on a theory of a “value gap” between the profits that platforms make on uploaded works, verses those the copyright holders of those works receive. However, the proposal extends far beyond music, requiring platforms to monitor every type of copyrighted work–text, images, audio, video, and even code. Article 13 would have an impact on just about everything that happens online, threatening freedom of expression, privacy, and the free flow of knowledge on the Internet.
We have discussed our concerns with the idea of automated content filters when the idea came up in US copyright conversations in the past. This law is troubling in the same ways. Requiring platforms to monitor content contradicts existing rules that create a shared responsibility between platforms and rightsholders for removal of illegal content. In doing so, the law creates incentives to remove legitimate content; it creates a a troubling “take down first, ask questions later/never” attitude to online content.
Filters are not good at understanding context, and therefore legitimate speech such as commentary, parody, or satire may be removed without any human judgment involved. Legitimate expression may be chilled in the form of overly cautious self-policing as a result. Article 13 also has no penalties for false or misleading claims, leaving the system wide open for abuse.
Further, although Article 13 is intended to prevent uploads that infringe copyright, the same technology could be required for filtering of content for compliance with other EU laws, which would compound the dangers that this measure poses for freedom of expression and privacy online. And, policymakers in other countries, including the United States, may come to view mandating content filters as an acceptable way to regulate the Internet if the EU does it first.
We urge you to take action.