No filter? What the reform of copyright law will signify
The EU is getting a new copyright law. The issue has been the subject of fierce debate for months. In mid-February, negotiators for the EU member states and the European Parliament reached preliminary agreement on a reform, which includes ancillary copyrights for press publishers. What does this agreement, which will affect virtually every internet user, mean? And why is it so controversial? Following are questions and answers on the subject:
Question: Why is the issue so controversial?
Answer: Censorship, the end of the internet as we know it, the death knell of the independent media - a slew of charges have been lobbed.
But two legislative innovations lie at the centre of the debate: Article 11, which provides for so-called "ancillary copyright" for the press, and Article 13, which deals with upload filters.
Q: What precisely have they agreed on?
A: The compromise law continues to provide for press copyright to be protected, but it drew back from explicit mention of upload filters. Critics fear that the filters could nevertheless be introduced through the back door, and talks with the member states are likely to be drawn out as a result.
Q: What are upload filters?
A: Upload filters are software that are able to inspect internet platforms to see whether images, videos or music are protected by copyright on uploading. The proposal passed does not mention them explicitly, but does place the liability for uploads with the platforms. This has led opponents to expect that the platforms will do everything possible to ensure that they do not infringe any copyright - and will of their own accord introduce upload filters.
Q: And ancillary copyright?
A: This concept means that portals like Google News will in future no longer be able to show headlines or brief snippets of text in their search results without prior consent. They will instead have to gain permission from the publishers and, where applicable, pay for the content.
Q: What do the opponents of Article 11 and Article 13 have to say?
A: They see disadvantages for publishing houses in ancillary copyright protection. These publishers would then have to be listed by search engines and would for that reason have a weak negotiating position vis-a-vis Google and other portals..
They also fear the law could be the death knell for online platforms, in particular those operated by small companies, which would be unable to afford the expensive upload filters. Another point that has repeatedly been stressed is that the upload filters are subject to error and could needlessly block content.
A major concern is the danger of censorship, with providers and platforms deciding what internet users do and do not see.
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