This is special post from i2Coalition Executive Director Christian Dawson
The European Union’s current legislation to harmonize copyright law across its member states could include controversial measures such as a “link tax” and for service providers to have increased liability for user-generated content on their platforms. i2Coalition has joined Dontwreckthe.net, a joint campaign to raise awareness around these issues before the EU Parliament’s final vote in March.
By the time 2019 is over, it could be a completely different ballgame for the companies who make up the Internet’s infrastructure. There are some serious existential threats poised to take hold this year if we’re not careful. Our group fights to educate and inform legislators about how the Internet works so that they don’t harm it and take down the companies that build the Internet in the process. And at the moment, I’m hoping we’re not outgunned. All the education and practical advice in the world doesn’t matter if the right people aren’t listening – and that’s why we need your help!
I’m sitting here in Washington, D.C., where the Federal government is currently shut down, but that hasn’t stopped bills from being introduced and circulated that pose risks to the Internet’s infrastructure. Rep. Louie Gohmert has released the “Biased Algorithm Deterrence Act”, which seeks to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act in ways that would change the liability requirements of Internet providers and make them liable for the actions of their customers unless they make a “good faith” effort to deter illegal acts. “Good faith” is such a squishy term that it’s more or less meaningless. Overnight, Internet providers would be subject to endless lawsuits without the strict monitoring of every aspect of their user’s content.
But because the U.S. government is shut down, we’ve got some time on that one. Where we don’t have time is on the EU Copyright Directive.
The EU Council passed an EU Copyright Directive in May 2018, and the EU Parliament passed its version in September 2018. The law is an attempt to harmonize copyright law across the EU member states, but we have grave concerns around Articles 11 and 13 of the EU Copyright Directive as they are currently written.
The story isn’t that different than the Gohmert bill, though in some ways the end results would be even worse. Internet companies who host anything would end up with incredibly vague liability standards. Online sharing platforms would be directly liable, as if they are the publisher, and it is unclear what they would need to do in order to mitigate that liability. The new landscape would likely need to be fully adjudicated in the court systems before providers can even begin to understand their new business risks, but those risks will increase dramatically across the board.
The proposed language will require some sort of mandatory filtering, which raises the bar for who can be a provider and who can’t. For instance, if you’ve got clients who are streaming music, there may be some inexpensive tools you could implement to qualify. But if you’re a host of pretty much anything else – say websites that put up poetry, drawings, or ebooks – no such effective tools exist. Your ability to run your business, and let your customers run theirs, changes overnight.
This is likely going to come down to a final vote in the EU Parliament on March 11th or March 25th. In the meantime, there is an ongoing dialogue on the EU on how to arrive at a final version. So NOW is the time to make noise in the EU, and let them know that we want our concerns around Article 11 and 13 to be addressed in the final language.
i2Coalition has just joined the coalition at https://dontwreckthe.net/ where we provide a great deal more information about this. You can sign up and stay up to date on new calls to action on this important issue.
I often write asking new member companies to join. Today I’m writing to ask you instead to help me make some noise. We need to spread the word about the EU Copyright Directive.
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If you have contacts in the EU Parliament, make sure they know you are paying attention, and need them to act.
We’re starting the year with one of our biggest fights, and we need everybody together on this. It’s going to be quite a year!
Executive Director, i2Coalition