When the EU started planning its new Copyright Directive (the “Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive”), a group of powerful entertainment industry lobbyists pushed a terrible idea: a mandate that all online platforms would have to create crowdsourced databases of “copyrighted materials” and then block users from posting anything that matched the contents of those databases.
At the time, we, along with academics and technologists explained why this would undermine the Internet, even as it would prove unworkable. The filters would be incredibly expensive to create, would erroneously block whole libraries worth of legitimate materials, allow libraries more worth of infringing materials to slip through, and would not be capable of sorting out “fair dealing” uses of copyrighted works from infringing ones.
The Commission nonetheless included it in their original draft. Two years later, after the European Parliament went back and forth on whether to keep the loosely described filters, with German MEP Axel Voss finally squeezing a narrow victory in his own committee, and an emergency vote of the whole Parliament. Now, after a lot of politicking and lobbying, Article 13 is potentially only a few weeks away from becoming officially an EU directive, controlling the internet access of more than 500,000,000 Europeans.
The proponents of Article 13 have a problem, though: filters don’t work, they cost a lot, they underblock, they overblock, they are ripe for abuse (basically, all the objections the Commission’s experts raised the first time around). So to keep Article 13 alive, they’ve spun, distorted and obfuscated its intention, and now they can be found in the halls of power, proclaiming to the politicians who’ll get the final vote that “Article 13 does not mean copyright filters.”
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