The internet as we know it may still end. That is the stark warning delivered by a consortium of major technology companies – Facebook, Google, Amazon, and others – to the US Trade Representative working on a new EU trade agreement.
The message pertains to Article 13, a new copyright directive currently under discussion by the European Union. The Computer and Communications Industry Association, or CCIA, sent this in advance of recent discussions in Brussels regarding the new directive. US companies fear that Article 13 will force them to comply with unreasonable standards to ensure that no copyrighted material is uploaded to their platforms, and penalizing them if it is.
In many cases, this would involve the use of an “upload filter”, an algorithm that would scan material for copyright violations during an upload. Many, including Youtube’s current CEO Susan Wojcicki, have expressed reservations about the new directive, claiming that it would make maintaining their services financially unfeasible. Youtube has even added a pop-up to many videos in the EU that informs users about the upcoming directive.
Tech companies aren’t alone in their worries. A petition with 4 million signatures collected has been delivered by activist team SafetheInternet, which calls the directive “censorship” and has demanded a halt to the implementation of Article 13.
Referring to the ‘Dictatorship of Algorithms’, the activists state on their site that “Upload filters on sites like YouTube, Facebook, and so on all have one thing in common – they never act as precisely as a human could. As a result, content that violates copyright laws, but is protected by citation law, is also mostly removed. This ‘vulnerability; can be used as an excuse to filter out content that is not approved by one’s own values and ideas.”
Currently, however, it seems that EU lawmakers have removed references to such an upload filter in their latest proposal. Nevertheless, critics, including Techdirt editor Mike Masnick, claims that even these proposed statements simply euphemise the upload filter requirements, writing that “this is not sound policymaking. This is technically illiterate bureaucrats trying to cover their asses. Because the liability requirements in the document will certainly lead to massive over blocking and widespread unintended consequences, these spineless technocrats are trying to avoid that by just tacking on “but let those consequences happen.”
The results of the discussions between the European Commission, EU Parliament, and the European Council remain to be seen, but it is almost certain that any new copyright directive will carry massive consequences not only for Europe but the world as well.