Archive for the ‘EU’ Category

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european parliament 2018 logo Members of the European Parliament are considering a proposition for the censorship of terrorist internet content issued by the European Commission last September.The IMCO Committee (“Internal Market and Consumers protection”) has just published its initial opinions on the proposition.

laquadrature.net reports

Judicial Review

The idea is that the government of any European Member State will be able to order any website to remove content considered “terrorist”. No independent judicial authorisation will be needed to do so, letting governments abuse the wide definition of “terrorism”. The only thing IMCO accepted to add is for government’s orders to be subject to “judicial review”, which can mean anything.

In France, the government’s orders to remove “terrorist content” are already subject to “judicial review”, where an independent body is notified of all removal orders and may ask judges to asses them. This has not been of much help: only once has this censorship been submitted to a judge’s review. It was found to be unlawful, but more than one year and half after it was ordered. During this time, the French government was able to abusively censor content, in this case, far-left publications by two French Indymedia outlets.

Far from simplifying, this Regulation will add confusion as authorities from one member state will be able to order removal in other one, without necessarily understanding context.

Unrealistic removal delays

Regarding the one hour delay within which the police can order a hosting service provider to block any content reported as “terrorist”, there was no real progress either. It has been replaced by a deadline of at least eight hours, with a small exception for “microentreprises” that have not been previously subject to a removal order (in this case, the “deadline shall be no sooner than the end of the next working day”).

This narrow exception will not allow the vast majority of Internet actors to comply with such a strict deadline. Even if the IMCO Committee has removed any mention of proactive measures that can be imposed on Internet actors, and has stated that “automated content filters” shall not be used by hosting service providers, this very tight deadline, and the threat of heavy fines will only incite them to adopt the moderation tools developed by the Web’s juggernauts (Facebook and Google) and use the broadest possible definition of terrorism to avoid the risk of penalties. The impossible obligation to provide a point of contact reachable 24/7 has not been modified either. The IMCO opinion has even worsened the financial penalties that can be imposed: it is now “at least” 1% and up to 4% of the hosting service provider’s turnover.

Next steps

The next step will be on 11 March, when the CULT Committee (Culture and Education) will adopt its opinion.

The last real opportunity to obtain the rejection of this dangerous text will be on 21 March 2019, in the LIBE Committee (Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs). European citizens must contact their MEPs to demand this rejection. We have provided a dedicated page on our website with an analysis of this Regulation and a tool to directly contact the MEPs in charge.

Starting today, and for the weeks to come, call your MEPS and demand they reject this text.

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EU flag Last week’s publication of the final draft of the new EU Copyright Directive baffled and infuriated almost everyone, including the massive entertainment companies that lobbied for it in the first place; the artists’ groups who endorsed it only to have their interests stripped out of the final document; and the millions and millions of Europeans who had publicly called on lawmakers to fix grave deficiencies in the earlier drafts, only to find these deficiencies made even worse .

Take Action: Stop Article 13

Thankfully, Europeans aren’t taking this lying down. With the final vote expected to come during the March 25-28 session, mere weeks before European elections, European activists are pouring the pressure onto their Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), letting them know that their vote on this dreadful mess will be on everyone’s mind during the election campaigns.

The epicenter of the uprising is Germany, which is only fitting, given that German MEP Axel Voss is almost singlehandedly responsible for poisoning the Directive with rules that will lead to mass surveillance and mass censorship, not to mention undermining much of Europe’s tech sector.

The German Consumer Association were swift to condemn the Directive, stating : “The reform of copyright law in this form does not benefit anyone, let alone consumers. MEPs are now obliged to do so. Since the outcome of the trilogue falls short of the EU Parliament’s positions at key points, they should refuse to give their consent.”

A viral video of Axel Voss being confronted by activists has been picked up by politicians campaigning against Voss’s Christian Democratic Party in the upcoming elections, spreading to Germany’s top TV personalities, like Jan Böhmermann.

Things are just getting started. On Saturday, with just two days of organizing, hundreds of Europeans marched on the streets of Cologne against Article 13. A day of action –March 23, just before the first possible voting date for MEPs–is being planned, with EU-wide events.

In the meantime, the petition to save Europe from the Directive –already the largest in EU history–keeps racking up more signatures, and is on track to be the largest petition in the history of the world.

Take Action : Stop Article 13

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EU flag In the evening of February 13, negotiators from the European Parliament and the Council concluded the trilogue negotiations with a final text for the new EU Copyright Directive.

For two years we’ve debated different drafts and versions of the controversial Articles 11 and 13. Now, there is no more ambiguity: This law will fundamentally change the internet as we know it — if it is adopted in the upcoming final vote. But we can still prevent that!

Please click the links to take a look at the final wording of Article 11 and Article 13 . Here’s my summary:

Article 13: Upload filters

Parliament negotiator Axel Voss accepted the deal between France and Germany I laid out in a recent blog post :

  • Commercial sites and apps where users can post material must make “best efforts” to preemptively buy licences for anything that users may possibly upload — that is: all copyrighted content in the world. An impossible feat.

  • In addition, all but very few sites (those both tiny and very new) will need to do everything in their power to prevent anything from ever going online that may be an unauthorised copy of a work that a rightsholder has registered with the platform. They will have no choice but to deploy upload filters , which are by their nature both expensive and error-prone .

  • Should a court ever find their licensing or filtering efforts not fierce enough, sites are directly liable for infringements as if they had committed them themselves. This massive threat will lead platforms to over-comply with these rules to stay on the safe side, further worsening the impact on our freedom of speech.

Article 11: The “link tax”

The final version of this extra copyright for news sites closely resembles the version that already failed in Germany — only this time not limited to search engines and news aggregators, meaning it will do damage to a lot more websites.

  • Reproducing more than “single words or very short extracts” of news stories will require a licence. That will likely cover many of the snippets commonly shown alongside links today in order to give you an idea of what they lead to. We will have to wait and see how courts interpret what “very short” means in practice — until then, hyperlinking (with snippets) will be mired in legal uncertainty.

  • No exceptions are made even for services run by individuals, small companies or non-profits, which probably includes any monetised blogs or websites.

Other provisions

The project to allow Europeans to conduct Text and Data Mining , crucial for modern research and the development of artificial intelligence, has been obstructed with too many caveats and requirements. Rightholders can opt out of having their works datamined by anyone except research organisations.

Authors’ rights: The Parliament’s proposal that authors should have a right to proportionate remuneration has been severely watered down: Total buy-out contracts will continue to be the norm.

Minor improvements for access to cultural heritage : Libraries will be able to publish out-of-commerce works online and museums will no longer be able to claim copyright on photographs of centuries-old paintings.

How we got here Former digital Commissioner Oettinger proposed the law

The history of this law is a shameful one. From the very beginning , the purpose of Articles 11 and 13 was never to solve clearly-defined issues in copyright law with well-assessed measures, but to serve powerful special interests , with hardly any concern for the collateral damage caused.

In the relentless pursuit of this goal , concerns by independent academics , fundamental rights defenders , independent publishers , startups and many others were ignored. At times, confusion was spread about crystal-clear contrary evidence . Parliament negotiator Axel Voss defamed the unprecedented protest of millions of internet users as ” built on lies “.

In his conservative EPP group, the driving force behind this law, dissenters were marginalised . The work of their initially-appointed representative was thrown out after the conclusions she reached were too sensible. Mr Voss then voted so blindly in favour of any and all restrictive measures that he was caught by surprise by some of the nonsense he had gotten approved. His party, the German CDU/CSU, nonchalantly violated the coalition agreement they had signed (which rejected upload filters), paying no mind to their own minister for digital issues .

It took efforts equally herculean and sisyphean across party lines to prevent the text from turning out even worse than it now is.

In the end, a closed-door horse trade between France and Germany was enough to outweigh the objections… so far.

What’s important to note, though: It’s not “the EU” in general that is to blame — but those who put special interests above fundamental rights who currently hold considerable power. You can change that at the polls! The anti-EU far right is trying to seize this opportunity to promote their narrow-minded nationalist agenda — when in fact without the persistent support of the far-right ENF Group (dominated by the Rassemblement/Front National ) the law could have been stopped in the crucial Legal Affairs Committee and in general would not be as extreme as it is today.

We can still stop this law

Our best chance to stop the EU copyright law: The upcoming Parliament vote.

The Parliament and Council negotiators who agreed on the final text now return to their institutions seeking approval of the result. If it passes both votes unchanged, it becomes EU law , which member states are forced to implement into national law.

In both bodies, there is resistance.

The Parliament’s process starts with the approval by the Legal Affairs Committee — which is likely to be given on Monday, February 18.

Next, at a date to be announced, the EU member state governments will vote in the Council. The law can be stopped here either by 13 member state governments or by any number of governments who together represent 35% of the EU population ( calculator ). Last time, 8 countries representing 27% of the population were opposed. Either a large country like Germany or several small ones would need to change their minds: This is the less likely way to stop it.

Our best bet: The final vote in the plenary of the European Parliament , when all 751 MEPs, directly elected to represent the people, have a vote. This will take place either between March 25 and 28, on April 4 or between April 15 and 18. We’ve already demonstrated last July that a majority against a bad copyright proposal is achievable .

The plenary can vote to kill the bill — or to make changes , like removing Articles 11 and 13. In the latter case, it’s up to the Council to decide whether to accept these changes (the Directive then becomes law without these articles) or to shelve the project until after the EU elections in May, which will reshuffle all the cards.

This is where you come in

The final Parliament vote will happen mere weeks before the EU elections . Most MEPs — and certainly all parties — are going to be seeking reelection. Articles 11 and 13 will be defeated if enough voters make these issues relevant to the campaigns. ( Here’s how to vote in the EU elections — change the language to one of your country’s official ones for specific information)

It is up to you to make clear to your representatives: Their vote on whether to break the internet with Articles 11 and 13 will make or break your vote in the EU elections. Be insistent — but please always stay polite.

Together, we can still stop this law.

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eu council 0299x0133 logo The Council of the EU headed by Donald Tusk has just adopted as the common position, the deal struck by France and Germany on the controversial EU Copyright Directive that was leaked earlier this week .

While Italy, Poland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Luxembourg maintained their opposition to the text and were newly joined by Malta and Slovakia, Germany’s support of the “compromise” secretly negotiated with France over the last weeks has broken the previous deadlock .

This new Council position is actually more extreme than previous versions, requiring all platforms older than 3 years to automatically censor all their users’ uploads, and putting unreasonable burdens even on the newest companies.

The German Conservative–Social Democrat government is now in blatant violation of its own coalition agreement , which rejects upload filters against copyright infringement as disproportionate. This breach of coalition promises will not go down well with many young voters just ahead of the European elections in May. Meanwhile, prominent members of both German government parties have joined the protests against upload filters.

The deal in Council paves the way for a final round of negotiations with the Parliament over the course of next week, before the entire European Parliament and the Council vote on the final agreement. It is now up to you to contact your MEPs, call their offices in their constituencies and visit as many of their election campaign events as you can! Ask them to reject a copyright deal that will violate your rights to share legal creations like parodies and reviews online, and includes measures like the link tax that will limit your access to the news and drive small online newspapers out of business.

Right before the European elections, your voices cannot be ignored! Join the over 4.6 million signatories to the largest European petition ever and tell your representatives: If you break the Internet and accept Article 13, we won’t reelect you!

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EFF logo Governments around the world are grappling with the threat of terrorism, but their efforts aimed at curbing the dissemination of terrorist content online all too often result in censorship. Over the past five years, we’ve seen a number of governments–from the US Congress to that of France and now the European Commission (EC)–seek to implement measures that place an undue burden on technology companies to remove terrorist speech or face financial liability.

This is why EFF has joined forces with dozens of organizations to call on members of the European Parliament to oppose the EC’s proposed regulation, which would require companies to take down terrorist content within one hour . We’ve added our voice to two letters–one from Witness and another organized by the Center for Democracy and Technology –asking that MEPs consider the serious consequences that the passing of this regulation could have on human rights defenders and on freedom of expression.

We share the concerns of dozens of allies that requiring the use of proactive measures such as use of the terrorism hash database (already voluntarily in use by a number of companies) will restrict expression and have a disproportionate impact on marginalized groups. We know from years of experience that filters just don’t work.

Furthermore, the proposed requirement that companies must respond to reports of terrorist speech within an hour is, to put it bluntly, absurd. As the letter organized by Witness states, this regulation essentially forces companies to bypass due process and make rapid and unaccountable decisions on expression through automated means and furthermore doesn’t reflect the realities of how violent groups recruit and share information online.

We echo these and other calls from defenders of human rights and civil liberties for MEPs to reject proactive filtering obligations and to refrain from enacting laws that will have unintended consequences for freedom of expression.

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EU flag Contrary to some reports A rticle 13 was not shelved solely because EU governments listened to the unprecedented public opposition and understood that upload filters are costly, error-prone and threaten fundamental rights.

Without doubt, the consistent public opposition contributed to 11 member state governments voting against the mandate, instead of just 6 last year, but ultimately the reform hinges on agreement between France and Germany , who due to their size can make or break blocking minorities. The deadlock is the direct result of their disagreement, which was not about whether to have upload filters at all; they just couldn’t  agree on exactly who should be forced to install those faulty filters :

The deadlock hinged on a disagreement between France and Germany

  • France’s position: Article 13 is great and must apply to all platforms, regardless of size . They must demonstrate that they have done all they possibly could to prevent uploads of copyrighted material. In the case of small businesses, that may or may not mean using upload filters — ultimately, a court would have to make that call . (This was previously the majority position among EU governments , supported by France, before Italy’s newly elected government retracted their support for Article 13 altogether.)

  • Germany’s position: Article 13 is great, but it should not apply to everyone. Companies with a turnover below ?20 million per year should be excluded outright, so as not to harm European internet startups and SMEs. (This was closer to the European Parliament’s current position , which calls for the exclusion of companies with a turnover below ?10 million and fewer than 50 employees.)

What brought France and Germany together:

Making Article 13 even worse In the Franco-German deal , which leaked today, Article 13 does apply to all for-profit platforms. Upload filters must be installed by everyone except those services which fit all three of the following extremely narrow criteria:

  • Available to the public for less than 3 years

  • Annual turnover below ? 10 million

  • Fewer than 5 million unique monthly users

Countless apps and sites that do not meet all these criteria would need to install upload filters, burdening their users and operators, even when copyright infringement is not at all currently a problem for them. Some examples:

  • Discussion boards on for-profit sites, such as the Ars Technica or Heise.de forums (older than 3 years)

  • Patreon , a platform with the sole purpose of helping authors get paid (fails to meet any of the three criteria)

  • Niche social networks like GetReeled , a platform for anglers (well below 5 million users, but older than 3 years)

  • Small European competitors to larger US brands like wykop, a Polish news sharing platform similar to reddit (well below ? 10 million turnover, bur may be above 5 million users depending on the calculation method)

On top of that, even the smallest and newest platforms, which do meet all three criteria , must still demonstrate they have undertaken ” best efforts ” to obtain licenses from rightholders such as record labels, book publishers and stock photo databases for anything their users might possibly upload — an impossible task . In practice, all sites and apps where users may upload material will likely be forced to accept any license a rightholder offers them , no matter how bad the terms, and no matter whether the y actually want their copyrighted material to be available on the platform or not , to avoid the massive legal risk of coming in conflict with Article 13. In summary: France’s and Germany’s compromise on Article 13 still calls for nearly everything we post or share online to require prior permission by “censorship machines” , algorithms that are fundamentally unable to distinguish between copyright infringement and legal works such as parody and critique. It would change the web from a place where we can all freely express ourselves into one where big corporate rightholders are the gatekeepers of what can and can’t be published. It would allow these rightholders to bully any for-profit site or app that includes an upload function. European innovation on the web would be discouraged by the new costs and legal risks for startups — even if they only apply when platforms become successful, or turn 3 years old. Foreign sites and apps would be incentivised to just geoblock all EU users to be on the safe side.

Now everything hinges on the European Parliament

With this road block out of the way, the trilogue negotiations to finish the new EU copyright law are back on. With no time to lose, there will be massive pressure to reach an overall agreement within the next few days and pass the law in March or April. The most likely next steps will be a rubber-stamping of the new Council position cooked up by Germany and France on Friday, 8 February, and a final trilogue on Monday, 11 February.
MEPs, most of whom are fighting for re-election, will get one final say. Last September, a narrow majority for Article 13 could only be found in the Parliament after a small business exception was included that was much stronger than the foul deal France and Germany are now proposing — but I don’t have high hopes that Parliament negotiator Axel Voss will insist on this point. Whether MEPs will reject this harmful version of Article 13 (like they initially did last July) or bow to the pressure will depend on whether all of us make clear to them: If you break the internet and enact Article 13, we won’t re-elect you.

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julia reda The European Council has firmly rejected the negotiating mandate that was supposed to set out Member States’ position ahead of what was supposed to be the final negotiation round with the European Parliament. National governments failed to agree on a common position on the two most controversial articles, Article 11, also known as the Link Tax, and Article 13, which would require online platforms to use upload filters in an attempt to prevent copyright infringement before it happens.

A total of 11 countries voted against the compromise text proposed by the Romanian Council presidency earlier this week: Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Finland and Slovenia, who already opposed a previous version of the directive, as well as Italy, Poland, Sweden, Croatia, Luxembourg and Portugal. With the exception of Portugal and Croatia, all of these governments are known for thinking that either Article 11 or Article 13, respectively, are insufficiently protective of users’ rights. At the same time, some rightsholder groups who are supposed to benefit from the Directive are also turning their backs on Article 13.

This surprising turn of events does not mean the end of Link Tax or censorship machines, but it does make an adoption of the copyright directive before the European elections in May less likely. The Romanian Council presidency will have the chance to come up with a new text to try to find a qualified majority, but with opposition mounting on both sides of the debate, this is going to be a difficult task indeed.

The outcome of today’s Council vote also shows that public attention to the copyright reform is having an effect. Keeping up the pressure in the coming weeks will be more important than ever to make sure that the most dangerous elements of the new copyright proposal will be rejected.