Next week, the European Parliament will have to take a stance with a last vote on the fate of the Copyright Directive, which has been discussed for several years. La Quadrature du Net calls for the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to throw out this bill that would induce severe restrictions to the freedom of speech and the access to information. Far from re-balancing the equilibrium with the Internet’s Majors, this bill would lead to devolve a worrying automated censorship ability to them. This bill is not the copyright reform the EU needs and it contains no tangible element that would improve the situation for creators.
The bill following the negotiations that were carried by the European institutions over the last months did not fix a single one of the issues that led us to call to already reject the bill many times in 2018. Our analysis remains the same: cultural industries and big rights holder companies are actually seeking to loot crumbs left behind by the Internet’s Majors thanks to the mass surveillance they are pursuing through targeted advertising. Under the guise of carrying out a “redistribution of wealth”, this directive would constitute a serious renunciation for the EU, as it would tie creation and press funding to a systematic violation of the rights of individuals.
This will all happen on the back of fundamental liberties, because of the directive’s articles 11 & 13, which spark the opposition of a great amount of civil society’s members. Even if the scope of the article 13 in its final form does not affect what La Quadrature considers as an open and free Internet—namely decentralised or federalised services such as Mastodon or Peertube —it will enforce on centralised and profitable platforms an obligation to preemptively filter contents that our association has always opposed. The exercise of such processes is evidently disproportionate and the directive adds no satisfying guaranty protecting freedom of speech. The Copyright Directive was thereby used as a laboratory for the automated censorship algorithms that can be found in other bills, such as the anti-terrorist regulation against which La Quadrature has stood.
The article 11 is just as much of an issue, since that, wishing to establish new rights for press publishers, it will actually restrain the use of those contents far beyond aggregators like Google News by potentially hurting non-profit entities and the entire ecosystem relating to the access to information as well.
If the Copyright directive must be rejected by the European Parliament, it is also because it is not the positive copyright reform the EU needs. Cultural Industries managed once again to focus the debate on the consolidation of intellectual property, concealing the profound need to adapt the copyright regulations to digital practices. In this current shape, the directive admittedly contains some compromises in the form of copyright exceptions, but they remain far too limited to entail a significant change.
None of those measures fit the proposals made over the last several years by La Quadrature du Net in order to profoundly change copyright and reconcile artists with the public. For that, it would have been necessary to oppose ideas like the legalisation of non-profit sharing of art products, the acknowledgement of transformative practices such as remixes or mash-ups, or new forms of funding such as creative contribution.
By asserting that this bill will be able to improve European creators’ situation, the cultural industries supporting it are profoundly lying. They constantly prevented topics such as creation financing arrangements or regulations for income distribution among creators and middlemen, even though they’re the key to solving the authors’ situation. France holds a significant responsibility in this fiasco given that its governments and the majority of french MEPs have constantly obstructed those questions from being discussed, while pushing for the most repressive of measures.
More broadly, the whole writing process of this bill was glazed with intrusions by both cultural industry and Internet Majors lobbies. This harrowing sight undermines the EU’s democratic credibility. However, it must not overshadow the massive mobilisation of civil society’s individuals and organisations—one of the most important to date—which has been consistently ignored or mocked by the European Commission as much as some of the MEPs favorable to this bill.
The European Parliament still has one last chance to prove that they are capable of being independent by burying this aberrant bill for good. They already did it in July 2018 to protect fundamental liberties and they must do it again now for the same reasons.
This is why La Quadrature du Net joins other associations committed against this bill—EDRi, Bits of Freedom, Wikimedia, the APRIL and many more!—to call for European citizens to contact their MEPs on the platform Pledge2019.