Another day, another threat to the open and free Internet. Earlier this month, the US officially repealed net neutrality rules. Now, the EU has voted in favor of legislation that could censor the Internet.
Called the Copyright Directive, the legislation has been widely derided by pretty much anyone who knows anything about the Internet. This morning, the EU’s Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) approved it, meaning it will now go to the full European Parliament for a vote in July, after which it could come into law.
The major issues around the bill, which seeks to rewrite European copyright law, concern Articles 11 and 13. The former would require online websites to pay to link to news stories, while the latter would require all sites to monitor copyright on their sites themselves – including anything posted by users.
“Both articles make unprecedented demands on anyone operating a popular website to monitor copyrighted material and to pay fees to news organisations when linking out to their articles,” Gizmodo noted.
Not helping matters is that both Articles are extremely vague, meaning – like the problems that have plagued GDPR – enforcing them will be difficult if not impossible. And while designed to limit the power websites like Facebook and Google have over publishers, the Copyright Directive would more likely have the opposite effect of favoring places that can afford large teams to cope with its demands.
It’s safe to say the legislation hasn’t gone well with experts. Last week, 70 notable names in technology – including the inventor of the web, Tim Berners Lee – signed a letter urging the EU to at least oppose Article 13.
“Article 13 takes an unprecedented step towards the transformation of the Internet from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users,” they wrote.
It’s also been pointed out the number of ways this legislation will impact Internet users. It could make memes unusable as they violate copyright, while people posting innocently to social media with, say, a t-shirt of their favorite show might find they flagged and blocked by an algorithm.
“Whether it's dating sites, online auctions, source code management, or social media, every service that lets people talk to each other is covered by this awful, looming proposal that treats the internet like cable TV,” Cory Doctorow, the co-editor for Boing Boing, wrote for Motherboard.
If you’re in the EU, it’s not too late to act – you can call or email your Member of the European Parliament (MEP) right now. The rest of you can just hope the EU doesn’t moronically vote to clip the wings of the Internet.