Blogs | Information democracy | Freedom of expression online

Copyright Directive may lead newspapers to become their own censors

By EDRi · December 13, 2017

Copyright discussions continue in the European institutions. On one hand, Axel Voss, the German conservative (EPP/CDU) Parliamentarian in charge of the dossier in the European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) is on some sort of a stand-by while the German government forms. On the other hand, the EU Council, composed of the relevant ministers in charge of the copyright Directive proposal, is speeding up. The two worst proposals in it are the upload filter (“censorship machine”) in Article 13 and the ancillary copyright in Article 11.

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In the latest documents leaked from the Council meetings there is a new definition of a type of online service, “online content sharing service provider” (OCSSP) which would be the one affected by the censorship machine proposal (Article 13).

Although enough has been said about the risks of the upload filter and ancillary copyright separately, less has been said about the potential interconnections between the two of them. The Council’s new text on Article 13 says that OCSSPs “shall not be liable” for making available copyrighted content, if rightsholders have not provided the necessary data to identify the work and thus allow OCSSPs to block the content in advance. The idea seems to be to “soften” the upload filter by putting responsibility on rightsholders.

However, if the ancillary copyright in Article 11 of the copyright Directive proposal were to be adopted, any text that was part of any article published in the last 20 years would be subject to the filtering regime imposed by Article 13. In principle, this would also cover images containing text from a news article. These two provisions together will thus create the biggest censorship machine ever.

As the owner of the rights of the articles (given to them contractually by its journalists) each newspaper would retain the ancillary rights to articles up to “20 years after the publication of the press publication”. If the newspaper provides data from the relevant articles to any OCCSP, that service would need to filter and block access to any articles (or snippets from those articles), as the result of a combination of the new ancillary copyright and the upload filters. As a result, websites like Reddit would need to have a licence to offer the service unless it blocked access to every snippet of text from article from that newspaper that is less than 20 years old. That said, nobody can say for certain if Reddit, being based outside Europe, would either be covered by the Directive or subject to reprisals through “self-regulatory” “follow the money” arbitrary enforcement measures implemented by payment and advertising networks.

To stop this, call now the Members of the European Parliament from your country and contact national ministries working on copyright (ministries of culture, generally), and tell them to oppose the proposed upload filter and to stop the censorship machine!

Time to stop the #CensorshipMachine: NOW! 30.11.2017)

Copyright reform: Document pool

Stop the censorship machine!

Save the meme!

(Contribution by Diego Naranjo, EDRi)