Article 13 – Changes in EU copyright law can end your freedom of expression online

Update, June 21st: 

The European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs voted in favor of Article 13 yesterday.  This isn’t a final vote, but since the committee decided to push Article 13 forward, it seems there is only one small step to the final stage of the legislation process.

Changes in Article 13 won’t become official until next month, when the general assembly of the Parliament gives the last vote. One way to reverse the decision would be if all 751 MEPs agree to dissolve the controversial article and let the world wide web the way it is.

So, there is still time. Convince your MEP to vote against Article 13!

Update, June 18th: 

Several digital activists have been warning us about Article 13 from EU’s copyright law since last year.

If you think it’s nothing important, think again! This could highly impact your entire web experience.

Imagine you have to pay a fee to online platforms and websites for every little piece of content you take over from them. Whether you use short snippets of text from an original article as part of a link in one of your posts (it could be blog article or social media post) or upload a photo or a video on your platform. Up until now it was considered fair and legal to simply mention the source. However, Article 13 wants everyone to pay for all these small bits of content everyone is supposed to be free to use.

Let’s say you want to share or use a quote like the one below in a news article:

Or you want to use an info graphic from an online research center:

Websites and online platforms will have to charge you for using their resources. 

That sounds ludicrous, right?

There is something that we can all do to make sure the Internet doesn’t change and stays exactly how it should be: free and open, with the liberty to express yourself.

If you want to take action and defend your digital rights, get the attention of your national MEP (Member of the European Parliament). Better hurry because the final vote takes place June 20th!

Don’t worry! It’s not a complicated process. Online platforms give you a hand in contacting MEPs from each European country. With the help of organizations like Save Your Internet, you can either call, send them an email or a tweet.

Additionally, several organizations have initiated important steps to save the world wide web.

EFF has set up an open letter; more than 70 leading technology figures have already singed it. Among the signatories is the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, and internet pioneer Vint Cerf. All you have to do is to put your name on the list. This certifies you don’t approve with Article 13 and everything that it implies.

Here are other organizations and online platforms that work for the same cause:

Here’s what we wrote back on October 26th, 2017

Clearly, the internet world and online content are constantly changing.  Apparently, the European Commission believes it has become a far greater and wider world than anyone can bear so the organization found its way to make it just a little smaller.

One specific article from the EU copyright law has become a cause for concern for many worldwide organizations and ministers.

This is what Article 13 says:

“Information society service providers that store and provide to the public access to large amounts of works or other subject-matter uploaded by their users shall, in cooperation with rightholders, take measures to ensure the functioning of agreements concluded with rightholders for the use of their works or other subject-matter or to prevent the availability on their services of works or other subject-matter identified by rightholders through the cooperation with the service providers. Those measures such as the use of effective content recognition technologies shall be appropriate and proportionate. “

This change contradicts a former EU policy, passed in 2000, which states that websites should act as “mere conduit”, which means simply offering a platform for online users. The policy does not indicate the fact that website owners should be held responsible for material posted to their sites.

Where would the implementation of Article 13 lead to?

Limitations on freedom of speech and expression

Based on Article 13, internet service providers will have to implement upload filters for all online content such as music, movies, and any text such as news and information.

At a first glance, this largely affects big companies like YouTube or Wikipedia, but at large, it affects all online users simply because the freedom of expression is reduced. This also means the worldwide digital content will be drastically diminished.

The problem with this idea is that avoiding copyright infringement will happen behind closed doors where no one except website owners can see. This measure draws to extreme subjectivity which makes it impossible for users to determine the credibility of an information and to select the right information on any topic of their interest.

The world wide web would be censored and this is something quite hard to imagine.

If Article 13 would apply, it will also be something quite hard to adjust to. Just think that political opinions or parodies would no longer be available or only those with whom internet service providers favor will be put out.

This is so unfair and limited especially since everyone should question: what is the expertise of website owners in defining “illegal” content?

How changes in the EU #copyrightlaw could mean the beginning of #internetcensorship Click to Tweet

Possible path to surveillance

Article 13 would also lead to a high surveillance risk due to the fact that companies will need to invest in surveillance technology. And if they can’t afford the investment, there is a high chance that this technology will be outsourced to big internet providers in the U.S., since almost 80% of all internet traffic runs through U.S. ISPs.

This way, U.S. based providers can easily watch what EU users do on the internet.

Restriction on research and science data

Today, you can visit many online platforms that post plenty of interesting research and science developments and discoveries. However, if these platforms start being monitored, this could also mean limited access to science news and projects. Now that is terrible news for the world of academia.

Several civil rights organizations have sent the European Commission an open letter explaining the concerns regarding Article 13. You can also express your disapproval on this matter using this open letter.

About the author

Dana Vioreanu
Dana Vioreanu

Even though her degree is in Sociology, which technically has nothing to do with writing, all her previous jobs implied working for websites, taking care of content and writing articles.
By the way, if you’re interested in studying abroad, feel free to ask her a few pointers, because for about two years and a half, she learned almost everything there is to know about international studies.

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