Human rights and digital rights organisations have sent an open letter to the European decision-makers asking them to add human rights safeguards to the proposed Copyright Directive on the Digital Single Market throughout the negotiation process. The negotiation process between the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Council is coming to an end soon as representatives work towards a compromise solution.
Human rights and digital rights organisations have been criticising Article 13 since the first draft of the proposed Directive was published. Our main concern was that it would limit our freedom of expression and data protection by introducing filtering (i.e., censoring) obligations on behalf of internet platforms.
Even though the last few months has brought some positive developments, the newly proposed versions of Article 13 are still not in line with our basic human rights. Certain safeguards are needed to avoid excessive and unnecessary restrictions on citizens’ fundamental rights.
We ask EU decision-makers to ensure that the new regulation on Copyright complies with the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the basic EU document that sets out the fundamental human rights of the European citizens. We listed two necessary human rights safeguards.
Online platforms such as Google, Facebook and YouTube control much of the information available on the internet, and they are empowered to rank and take down content at their discretion. These platforms serve “the internet” as we know it now. Under the proposed Directive, internet platforms would be able to make decisions about freedom of expression with no transparency or accountability.
In cases where content is blocked or filtered, it is critical that they properly justify their decisions; decisions that should be subject to proper redress mechanisms to ensure free speech and freedom of information. Besides providing an alternative dispute resolution, the EU could provide, for free, legal mechanisms across the EU to settle disputes between users, copyright holders and internet platforms.
2) Avoid automated filtering and blocking of content
We call on EU decision-makers to avoid introducing a mandatory monitoring obligation. Automated filtering software is notoriously inaccurate and is likely to catch lawful materials that do not breach copyright and that are essential for societal and political debate and comment, such as parody or quotation. Finally, a general obligation to monitor everything a user uploads to the internet is likely to cause a chilling effect on free speech, as users will be more likely to self-censor any content that could risk triggering (inaccurate) filtering software.
Article 13 is going to change the liability regime. The upshot of this is that platforms will be sanctioned if they let copyrighted content through their system without a licensing agreement. The proposed solution would create an incentive for platforms to be overly cautious and take down anything that presents even the slightest risk of legal exposure for the company.
On the other hand, it is important to ensure that there are legal repercussions that disincentivise platforms from removing content that does not violate copyright. What we ask is that platforms should be liable for deleting lawful, user-generated content. This should change the attitude of the internet giants, and will also more effectively protect user content.
The original open letter is here.
The letter was signed by the following organisations:
Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties)
Associação D3 - Defesa dos Direitos Digitais
Association for Progressive Communications
ANSOL - Associação Nacional para o Software Livre
Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC)
Big Brother Watch
Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT)
Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Frënn vun der Ënn
Miklos Haraszti, former OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media
Hungarian Civil Liberties Union
Index on Censorship
Platform for the Defence of Freedom of Information
Rights International Spain (RIS)
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
South East European Network for Professionalization of Media (SEENPM)
Spanish Internet Users Asociation
The Human Rights League – Belgium
Vereniging van Openbare Bibliotheken-Association of Public Libraries The Netherlands