A lot of time has passed and the EU Copyright Reform isn't finished, but it is nearing completion. On the 26th of March (next Tuesday), by 11:00 UTC, the European Parliament will make the final vote on whether or not it accepts the proposed text for a new Copyright Directive. Currently, the directive includes several exceptions that didn't exist at the time of the previous post. Things like Wikipedia, Github, GitLab, Bitbucket, and other similar services are exempt from the outlined restrictions. This is very good; it means we were heard. It also means that, in late 2018, fundamental problems with the proposal were addressed in hasty and "hacky" ways even though there was ample time to implement these solutions. The very first public consultation requesting directions from the public was in 2014. Unfortunately, this means that politicians will only listen to what we have to say if we make a lot of noise.
There are also a few exceptions for small and start-up businesses. However, they only apply when all three of the following conditions are met. When one of them is unfulfilled, the organization is no longer exempt. The company has to:
- Be under three years old
- Have an annual turnover of under 10 million euros
- Attract less than 5 million unique visitors per month.
These criteria are incredibly limiting. For example, if there was a commercial Peertube instance that made money on the posted content, once they reach 3 years old, no matter how little they make or how few visitors they attract, they are still hit with the full brunt of the copyright restrictions from this legislation.
So is everything alright with the proposal now?
The exceptions drafted were specifically implemented to demobilize organizations and communities that held the most sway over public opinion. This was an attempt to stifle resistance rather than an honest correction of something that had gone wrong. Additionally, many services aren't exempt and will be impacted by this mandatory upload filter for user generated content, and the other evil twin, the responsibilization of online platforms for what users upload in the same way the users are responsible.
We do know a few more things that are important to understand:
- Filter technology is faulty at best and results in a staggeringly large number of false positives
- They can't verify attribution (who the real author is)
- They can't understand context or evaluate whether a copyright exception should be applied to the work in question (even courts with help of specialists have difficulty doing this)
- There are no safeguards powerful enough to balance the risks to things like freedoms of expression, the press, etc. that we all have
- Existing safeguards are not effective or efficient
- There is no punishment for abuse of this system (which is rampant) - people and organizations use copyright to silence critics and opponents.
But how does this harm UBports and Free Software?
It's very clear to us that UBports and Free Software depend on a healthy and free ecosystem. This proposal is still a very large risk. Organizations and communities like Nextcloud, OpenStreetMaps, etc. are still threatened by this proposal. Many Ubuntu Touch users like and even rely on these services. Some of them are also available in the Open Store. Most importantly, we believe that censorship is bad for society and hinders creativity. We, like the Wikimedia Foundation (the organization behind Wikipedia), are still standing behind our initial position, and we ask that all our supporters help put a stop to this terrible proposal.
So what can you do?
If you're a European Citizen, besides helping spread this post and others from the Digital Rights community (like EDRi), you can sign the biggest petition ever directed to the European Union with over five million signatures, you can contact your MEP and ask that they refuse this proposal, making them pledge before the voters to vote against the proposal, or just contact them asking to vote against.
Do you live in the EU?
Saturday, March 23rd, there will be demonstrations in many cities across Europe. Please join them! Check out locations at SaveTheInternet.info
If you're not a citizen of the EU, you can still help spread the message, bringing more awareness to this very urgent issue.
Still have doubts?
The Whitemarket Podcast just released a great episode on this. Even if you're not skeptical, it's a great episode to listen to.