In a plenary vote yesterday, 20 June 2018, the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) of the European Union Parliament voted for a proposed copyright directive as presented, which includes measures to monitor, filter, and control—if not outright censor—uploads to the Worldwide Web. In an article titled "Will the Proposed EU Copyright Directive Irrevocably Damage the Internet?" I commented a few days ago on the highly controversial proposal for a "Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market," EU Interinstitutional File: 2016/0280 (COD).
Considering the number of voices raised in opposition to the proposal, it is surprising to many that the current text passed without further alteration or amendment. In particular, Chapter 2, Article 13 (pages 56 through 60 of the 66-page proposal) is drawing dire warnings from many open-information notables. In essence, it will require that that providers of web services be responsible and liable for pre-screening everything people post online to make certain none of it potentially infringes on copyrighted material.
EDRi, the European Digital Rights organization, published shortly after the vote an article titled "We Can Still Win: Next Steps for the Copyright Directive," by Andreea Belu. It describes the four major stages remaining before the new directive can become a mandate, nicely summarized in the EDRi infographic at right.
In just the scant intervening days, I received more criticism over that June 17 article than anything I've recently written. Some directed at me personally, of a tenor that I approached the issue with extreme bias as an anti-European American, and—as a U.S. citizen and resident with self-admittedly no great understanding of EU law and process—that I had no business inserting my opinion into the discussion.
One of my mistakes was undoubtedly opening the piece as I did: a quotation from the United States Copyright Office about international copyright, and then I likened the May 25 implementation of the EU's GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) to serious and painful surgery, worldwide.
I read voraciously and write voluminously; I've had plenty of time to convince myself that some others do not, but that realization has never really stuck. In that previous article, it was eight paragraphs in before I made clear we were talking about only the European Union directive, and even then I used post-GDPR geoblocking by the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and others as an intimation of possible repercussions to the proposed copyright directive. I should not have expected everyone to read that far.
Nevertheless, I did go back and examine the references I included in the article, particularly those in the closing section showing a list of links of interest. And the majority originate outside the United States...as does the bulk of the criticism over the EU copyright proposal. In fact, other than some academic journals and a few websites, the media in the United States has been singularly mum over the matter.
This is not a US versus EU thing. It's a freedom of information thing the the impact of which—in principle and precept if not blatantly in commerce—will be felt worldwide if enacted as it stands.
Even the United Nations isn't liking what they're seeing in this proposal. The day before the EU Parliament's plenary vote, in a piece titled "Landmark Report by UN Expert Urges Governments and Internet Firms to Ensure Freedom of Expression Online," David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, wrote:
Governments have a responsibility to ensure compliance with national and international law, but they must act now to ensure that the ability of Internet platforms to provide space for freedom of expression is not undermined. Unfortunately, governments are moving in the wrong direction and often pose direct threats to online freedom of expression.
I was challenged to list 10 known, reputable people in European Union nations who had spoken out about the proposed copyright directive. I needed only to draw on signatories of two open letters to the EU Parliament to compile a list somewhat longer than 10 names. I'll close with that, and with the hope that we see modifications to the text of the directive in the upcoming months.
A Partial List of Signatories to Published Criticism of the Proposed Directive
- Zuzana Adamova, head of Intellectual Property and Information Technologies Law Institute, University of Trnava, Slovakia
- Lionel Bently, director, Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law, University of Cambridge, UK
- Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee, British inventor of the World Wide Web and director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
- Maurizio Borghi, director, Centre for IP Policy & Management, Bournemouth University, UK
- Niklas Bruun, director, Intellectual Property Law University Center, Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland
- Oleksandr Bulayenko, Centre d’Etudes Internationales de la Propriété Intellectuelle, University of Strasbourg, France
- Hugh Connery, Environmental Engineering, Technical University of Denmark
- James Cronin, British Internet pioneer
- Peter Drahos, Professor of Law and Governance, European University Institute, Florence, Italy
- Josef Drexl, director, Intellectual Property and Competition Law, Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition, München, Germany
- Katharina de la Durantaye, Chair of Private Law and Media Law, European University Viadrina, Frankfurt, Germany
- Séverine Dusollier, professor, School of Law, SciencesPo, Paris, France
- Lilian Edwards, deputy director CREATe, University of Glasgow, Scotland, and Professor of E-Governance, Strathclyde University
- Nico van Eijk, director, Professor of Media and Telecommunications Law and Director of the Institute for Information Law, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
- Kris Erickson, professor, University of Leeds, UK
- Anriette Esterhuysen, South African Senior Advisor, Association for Progressive Communications
- Dev Gangjee, director, Oxford Intellectual Property Research Centre, University of Oxford, UK
- Christophe Geiger, director, Centre d’Etudes Internationales de la Propriété Intellectuelle, University of Strasbourg, France
- Sayantan Ghosal, professor of Economics, Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow, Scotland
- Dame Wendy Hall, Regius Professor of Computer Science, University of Southampton, UK
- Dietmar Harhoff, director, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Research, Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition, München, Germany
- Reto Hilty, director, Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition, München, Germany
- P. Bernt Hugenholtz, professor of Intellectual Property Law and former director, Institute for Information Law, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
- Miguel de Icaza, Mexico, founder of the GNOME, Mono, and Xamarin projects
- Joichi Ito, Japanese director of the MIT Media Lab
- Martin Kretschmer, director, RCUK Copyright Centre (CREATe), University of Glasgow, Scotland, and Braudel Fellow, European University Institute, Florence, Italy
- Nari Lee, professor of Intellectual Property Law, Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland
- Arno Lodder, professor of Internet Law, Centre for Law and Internet, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands
- Juan Carlos De Martin, co-director, Center for Internet & Society, Nexa, Politechnio di Torino, Italy
- Dinusha Mendia, co-director, Centre for IP Policy & Management, Bournemouth University, UK
- Axel Metzger, Chair in Civil and Intellectual Property Law, Humboldt-Universität Berlin, Germany
- Désirée Miloshevic, British citizen born Belgrade, Senior Public Policy and International Affairs Advisor in Europe for Afilias, former Special Adviser to the Chair of Internet Governance Forum Advisory Group and Member of the Internet Society Board of Trustees
- Matěj Myška, deputy head of the Institute of Law and Technology, Faculty of Law, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic
- Eoin O'Dell, professor at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
- Martin Odersky, German, professor at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland
- Alexander Peukert, chair in Civil and Intellectual Property Law, Goethe Universität, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
- Radim Polčák, head of the Institute of Law and Technology, Faculty of Law, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic
- Tito Rendas, lecturer in Copyright Law, Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Portugal
- Marco Ricolfi, co-director, Center for Internet & Society, Nexa, Politechnio di Torino, Italy
- Thomas Riis, professor at University of Copenhagen, Denmark
- Guido van Rossum, Dutch founder and developer of the Python programming language
- Henning Grosse Ruse-Khan, co-director, Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law, University of Cambridge, UK
- Giovanni Sartor, professor at University of Bologna, Italy
- Jens Schovsbo, professor at University of Copenhagen, Denmark
- Sebastian Felix Schwemer, Centre for Information and Innovation Law, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
- Martin Senftleben, Professor of Intellectual Property, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands
- Rafal Sikorski, professor of Law, Faculty of Law and Administration, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland
- Ruth Towse, professor of the Economics of Creative Industries, Bournemouth University, UK, and CREATe Fellow in Cultural Economics
- Philip Wadler, Professor of Theoretical Computer Science, University of Edinburgh
- Jimmy Wales, British resident and co-founder and board member, Wikimedia Foundation
- Guido Westkamp, professor of Intellectual Property and Comparative Law, Queen Mary, University of London, UK
- Stefano Zanero, professor at the Dipartimento di Elettronica, Informazione e Bioingegneria, Politecnico di Milano