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EU Weighing Controversial New Copyright Rules

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BRUSSELS, Belgium (CelebrityAccess) — The European Commission is considering a broad package of reforms to copyright law that if enacted, could have a dramatic impact on the Internet.

Included in the legislation is Article 13, which would require any internet service that hosts content to proactively filter uploads in order to remove copyright infringement.

Currently, the EU operates in a similar fashion as the US does under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Internet companies are required to remove copyrighted information they are hosting if it is brought to their attention but are generally protected from legal action under so-called ‘safe harbor’ provisions, provided they act promptly to remove such content when they become aware of it.

Under the new legislation, those same providers must ensure that copyrighted material is filtered and removed before it ever becomes available to the public.

The proposed measure has drawn stiff opposition from Internet advocates who see the broad changes as a potential threat to the creative freedom of the Internet and as striking a blow at the long-standing principle of fair use.

The concerns that have been expressed about Article 13 are wide-ranging, and include censorship, either via intentional manipulation of copyright rules or through overly heavy-handed filtering by risk-averse Internet companies. While this might seem far-fetched, there are already examples to be found,  such as YouTube’s controversial copyright strike program, which has been the bane of many content creators after other users have filed erroneous, or even vindictive copyright strikes, resulting in content being improperly taken down.

A group of Internet innovators, including Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, ethernet inventor Vint Cert, and Mozilla Project co-founder Mitchell Baker released an open letter opposing the measure, writing in part:

“By requiring Internet platforms to perform automatic filtering all of the content that their users upload, Article 13 takes an unprecedented step towards the transformation of the Internet from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users. The damage that this may do to the free and open Internet as we know it is hard to predict, but in our opinions could be substantial.”

Article 11

Also included in the new legislation is Article 11, also known as Publisher’s rights, which is aimed at the admittedly laudable goal of helping to help news and content creators control over how their published material is used with a new online royalty system.

Under the proposed rules, content aggregators such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft may have to pay a fine for showing ‘snippets’ such as the first paragraph of a news article in search result.

Proponents of the measure claim that it would encourage investment in the news sector and prevent ‘free-riding’ by link aggregators such as Google, and Reddit. However, it’s not entirely clear what exactly would have to be licensed and if hyperlinks would be included.

Critics contend Article 11 would concentrate news distribtuon in the hands of a few large players in the sector after smaller competitors who are unable to afford the licensing fees are forced out.

“Platforms unable or unwilling to pay licensing fees would need to shut down or disallow users from sharing links with snippets,” said Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda.

The new legislation just cleared the EU Commission’s Legal Affairs Committee and is likely to be considered by the full 751-member European Parliament on July 4th.

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