Dear UBports supporters,
The freedom to develop software collaboratively online is at serious risk by an article included on the current proposal for Copyright Reform in the European Union. The specific proposal, known as Article 13, imposes mandatory upload filters on online platforms that share "large amounts" of user-generated content.
The phrase, "large amounts", is not clearly defined in the article and we know that this is an intentional use of misleading language. In some countries, like Portugal, the government considers 500 to be a "large amount". 500 could be 500 pieces of art, 500 songs, 500 programs; really, 500 units of any work that can be legally protected by a copyright.
What is Article 13?
Essentially, Article 13 imposes mandatory censorship filters on any website that shares user-generated content. This includes the likes of GitLab, YouTube, Mastodon, Facebook, etc.
Content-hosting platforms, like YouTube, have already invested many millions of dollars in the development and deployment of content filters. However, they frequently fail at identifying a work and its authors as they are simply not capable of doing an in-depth-enough analysis of the legality of the usage of the work. This leads frequently to unfair automatic decisions, many authors find it incredibly difficult to open an appeal to claim the work as theirs, and they have an even lower chance of succeeding.
There's also a key difference between the current usage of these automated censorship filters and what is proposed in Article 13. Unlike the current filters that investigate already uploaded and published works, the censorship filters of Article 13 will have to automatically filter content on upload and prevent the publishing of any alleged violation.
Article 13 has very few exceptions, with its safeguards being weak and useless for the author. The incentive is to apply strong filters as blindly as possible; that's the only that way the platform can be kept safe from the prosecution as well as the original person that violated copyright.
How does this affect UBports?
In the context of UBports, the proposal refers to platforms as in Launchpad or GitHub and user-generated content would mean source code or artwork that composes the graphical user interface as well as documentation. This means that these platforms that host our code will have to implement similar filters that may lead to the removal and prevention of our publishing code and other work for our project. The alternative of hosting our content ourselves would take up financial resources as well as human resources. It would also make us less able to focus on developing software; we would be spending a lot more time taking care of our infrastructure.
This would also make it harder to do cross project collaboration like we do with Halium, because this type of work benefits greatly from the usage of some neutral centralized platform that is known and used by millions of developers.
How can we help?
So what can you do to save UBports, Free and Open Source Software, and code sharing in general? We recommend you contact the Members of European Parliament (MEP) and ask them to vote no to Article 13. In order to help you do this, Digital Rights activists have created a website that make it easy for you to email, tweet and even call them.
While this issue may boil your blood a bit, we recommend that you be respectful of the MEP as you contact them. That is the way of the Ubuntu Community. Also, no one will pay attention to protesters who don't speak with manners and civility. Please check out the SaveYourInternet website and act now, because the last committee of the European Parliament to vote on this proposal will vote Wednesday the 20th