“Don’t let the EU Copyright Directive silence European redditors.” That’s the closing line from a recently published blog by Reddit, in which the company pleads with users to take actions regarding the directive. The blog argues that, if it were to pass, Europeans may lose access to a number of platforms such as Reddit.
“(…) even though we are an American company with a user base primarily in the United States, we’ve nevertheless spent a lot of time this year warning about how an overbroad EU Copyright Directive could restrict Europeans’ equal access to the open Internet—and to Reddit.”
What Is the Copyright Directive?
Hard on the heels of the General Data Protection Regulations act, European lawmakers have been working to pass updated and unified copyright laws under a so-called Copyright Directive. The directive is designed to protect copyrights but has attracted a lot of criticism from across a board of activists and companies.
The contention primarily stems from two provisions, articles eleven and thirteen, commonly known as the “link tax” and “upload filter” respectively.
The link tax requires services that link to a story from, say, a news website to pay the creator a fee. The upload filter mandates big platforms to run copyright surveillance bots that scan all posts – including text, images, audio, video, and code – compare them to databases of copyrighted works, and fish for infringements.
The Obvious Problems
The vague and overboard nature of the directive, Reddit argues, would severely curb the potential for creativity, innovation, and information sharing.
The “sweeping, vague requirements” create “enormous liability for platforms like ours,” Reddit says. These requirements eliminate the previous safe harbors that allowed us the leeway to give users the benefit of the doubt when they shared content.”
“But under the new Directive, activity that is core to Reddit, like sharing links to news articles, or the use of existing content for creative new purposes (r/photoshopbattles, anyone?) would suddenly become questionable under the law, and it is not clear right now that there are feasible mitigating actions that we could take while preserving core site functionality.”
And if the current situation is any indication, we can surely expect copyright trolls to try and exploit some of the directive’s vague and loosely worded provisions to try and seek out more penalty and settlement money.
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