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EU Copyright Reform Proposals will harm freedom of expression online

The EU is proposing to make changes to online copyright laws. Three of the articles within the proposal, however, have raised serious concerns in regards to how they would change online behaviours, specifically in terms of uploading and sharing media.

These proposals to reform EU copyright were presented by Günther Oettinger shortly before leaving his post as Digital Commissioner. The previews of news articles that appear on Facebook will be deemed a copyright violation. No one will be allowed to share preview links to a news site without direct permission of the publisher.

Article 3 would create a copyright exception when used for Text and Data Mining research methods for research institutions and only for the purpose of scientific research. However, this has drawn significant criticism as it will prevent independent researchers, journalists and companies from using the technique for products and services, placing more limitations on startups and other organisations existing outside of the scope of “scientific research.”

Even more concerningly, Article 11 would require extra copyrights for news or media outlets, requiring anyone who would like to link to a news site to first get a licence from the publisher. This has been condemned by critics as a “link tax”. The proposed law gives media giants the power to charge fees for sharing links, by copyrighting tiny preview snippets.

This link tax is a broken idea that will harm access to news and information.

Article 13 requires that internet platforms that rely on hosting large amounts of user-uploaded data must monitor that content. Additionally, they must moderate the content to identify copyright infringement. The proposal could limit freedom of expression and harm independent creators.

Upload monitoring software cannot tell infringement apart from legal uses like parody. Filters also frequently malfunction. As a result, legal content will be taken down.

Filters like these always end up blocking legitimate legal content, and therefore will lead to masses of lost creativity. Links routinely include snippets, so restricting snippets restricts linking.

Julia Reda, Pirate Party Germany MEP, states in her article ’10 everyday things on the web the EU commission wants to make illegal: Oettinger’s legacy’:

“These proposals are pandering to the demands of some news publishers to charge search engines and social networks for sending traffic their way, as well as the music industry’s wish to be propped up in its negotiations with YouTube.”

“These proposals will cause major collateral damage – making many everyday habits on the web and many services you regularly use downright illegal, subject to fees or, at the very least, mired in legal uncertainty.”

An open letter signed by over 80 signatories states that “[The Copyright Directive is] on the verge of causing irreparable damage to our fundamental rights and freedoms, our economy and competitiveness, our education and research, our innovation and competition, our creativity and our culture.”

In short, these requirements place a huge burden on internet companies and discourages investment in user-generated content startups, preventing competition to the dominant US platforms from arising, effectively locking in YouTube’s dominance.

(Articles reflect the views of the author, and not necessarily those of Luke Nash-Jones, The Red Pill Factory, or Make Britain Great Again.)

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