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Online experts fear proposed EU copyright law change will damage internet

Article 13 of the EU digital copyright proposal calls for internet firms to monitor content uploads for copyright infringement.

Internet experts, including World Wide Web creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee, have warned that new EU proposals on copyright law could cause “substantial damage” to the platform.

Article 13 of the proposed legislation, under which internet platforms would be required to monitor uploads by their users for copyright infringement, was approved by the European Parliament committee on legal affairs on Wednesday.

The bill, which will now move to the European Parliament, says its aim is to make it easier for rights holders to license and be remunerated for the online distribution of their work.

However open internet advocates claim it amounts to the filtering or censorship of content and called the move a step towards turning the internet into “a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users”.

In a letter to European Parliament president Antonio Tajani ahead of the vote, and signed by more than 50 internet experts including Sir Tim and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, the group warns of the “imminent threat” brought by the proposals.

“The European Commission’s proposal for Article 13 of the proposed Directive for Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive was well-intended,” it says.

“As creators ourselves, we share the concern that there should be a fair distribution of revenues from the online use of copyright works, that benefits creators, publishers, and platforms alike.

“But Article 13 is not the right way to achieve this.”

The experts warn that rather than affecting the large internet companies initially targeted, competition from smaller platforms will be gravely affected as many will not be able to afford the technology needed to monitor content uploads.

Axel Voss, the MEP leading the push for the bill has said the proposals never mention the use of filters in any of its language, instead only referring to “effective technologies” being used to prevent copyright infringement.

The proposal says that the evolution of technology and rise of the internet means “there is a need to adapt” existing EU copyright laws.

But Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group said the impact of the proposed law was far-reaching.

“Article 13 must go. The EU Parliament will have another chance to remove this dreadful law,” he said.

“The EU Parliament’s duty is to defend citizens from unfair and unjust laws. MEPs must reject this law, which would create a Robo-copyright regime intended to zap any image, text, meme or video that appears to include copyright material, even when it is entirely legal material.”

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