European lawmakers, politicians, the entertainment industry, big internet companies, and cyber activists are all engaged in a tug of war over the EU Copyright Directive, a proposed directive meant to homogenize copyright law across member countries of the European Union.
The Directive has been seen by many as a gateway to broad censorship, namely, in light of controversial articles that have become known as the link tax and the uploader filter.
Article 11, the so-called link tax, says that publishers will be forced to pay a tax everytime they link to copyrighted material. This will greatly hamper the work of bloggers and content creators on the web.
Article 13, also known as the ‘upload filter’, will hold platforms – and not just individuals that share or receive copyrighted material, as is the case now – responsible for any copyright infringements. The article also proposes the use of AI to inspect the data being shared. But critics rightly point out that it is unlikely that AI will be able to differentiate plagiarized work from work that falls under fair use, a quote from plagiarism, or whether a photo is used as a playful meme.
The proposal for the directive was approved by the European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs on June 20, 2018, but failed to receive the required majority vote by the entire European Parliament to turn it into a directive. The proposal was sent back for debate and another vote was scheduled for September 10.
Following the vote, proponents of the law launched a vicious attack against who they believed were malicious actors pushing back against the directive. Some accused Google had pumped $36 million into lobbying against the legislation. The search giant was also accused of funding a website that encourages people to spam politicians and newspapers with automated messages in an effort to influence the legislative process in a way that benefits Silicon Valley.
There were even calls for a criminal investigation into the matter.
In response to these accusations, internet activists have called on people to take to the streets in protest of the proposal. The protests are meant to show lawmakers that the opposition is a genuine, grassroots movement, rather than a covert push by big tech companies looking to protect their revenue streams.
Various groups are putting together events all over Europe. Julia Reda, the Pirate Party’s Member of European Parliament, has called on people to join these protests. “Our goal is clear,” she says on her website, “The Parliament must adopt alternatives for Article 11 and Article 13 that don’t force platforms to install upload filters and don’t threaten links and snippets with an extra layer of copyright.”
The protests are scheduled for the 26th of August. So far, there are plans for gatherings in 15 cities across Europe. The protests are mapped on Julia’s website. Anyone able to organize or know of a protest in their city can reach out to her to add their event to the protests’ map too.