With only a few days to go until the crucial vote in the European Parliament, more and more people are becoming aware of the looming plans for “censorship machines” and a “link tax” in the EU. (Catch up on these plans here.) People are realizing:
Our freedom to upload media and share links, and thus to express ourselves online, is under threat.
Article 13 of the Copyright Directive will force internet platforms (social networks, video sites, image hosts, etc.) to install upload filters to monitor all user uploads for copyrighted content, including in images – and thus block most memes, which are usually based on copyrighted images.
Every vote counts
It currently looks like there is a razor-thin majority in favor of Article 13. The negotiators for the EPP (conservatives), ALDE (liberals), ECR (eurosceptic conservatives), and ENF (anti-EU far right) in the Legal Affairs Committee recently expressed their support for the latest version of Article 13.
Together, these groups have 13 votes on the Legal Affairs Committee – one more than the opposition:
It will come down to every single vote. Our mission until June 20: Make it clear to at least one MEP who’s currently undecided or in favor that their constituents want them to reject these plans. The NGO EDRi has made a list of key swing votes.
What are they thinking?
To convince these MEPs, we need to understand what we’re up against.
Big corporate lobbies are demanding these laws, hoping to make additional profits and gain more control over the web, after missing out on much of the digital transformation. Publicly, they insist these laws are necessary to protect European cultural industries from exploitation by foreign internet platforms. The link tax is even supposed to single-handedly “save journalism.”
That narrative gets some politicians’ attention, because these are laudable goals and the underlying problems are real: Funding for quality journalism is indeed under pressure. Google and Facebook do have a worrying amount of power and aren’t contributing enough to the European economy.
But independent experts agree: Copyright law isn’t the source of these problems, and these plans won’t fix them. In fact, they may well backfire – and they are certain to cause collateral damage to freedom of expression and harm independent creators, small publishers and startups.
So let your MEP know: You understand the problems they’re trying to fix, but this law is not an appropriate and proportionate solution. It’s not in the public interest.
What makes this fight particularly hard: The other side is playing dirty, according to multiple reports.
A year and a half ago, the Commissioner who proposed this law came right out and urged publishers to convince their journalists to stop criticizing it (turn on subtitles for an English translation).
In an article titled “Are German publishers Axel Springer using [German governing party] CDU to strong-arm Brussels?”, an EU insider reported: “Rumors are abound in Brussels of the lengths they‘re willing to go to” to push this law through.
“I know that several members of our committee have come under huge pressure to vote in favour of this particular proposal. The German CDU […] has been reportedly pressuring them […] there have been reports of threats of members not being allocated reports and parliamentary positions if, basically, they don’t do as they are told,” an MEP revealed under the cover of anonymity in another article — before it was taken offline and edited to replace that quote with an official statement by the publishers’ lobby.
“Independent evidence is ignored in response to heavy lobbying,” experts from leading research centers across Europe complained in an open letter. In the Parliament, academic evidence was held back or “balanced out” with specifically-ordered cheerleading, as I’ve documented on my blog.
“The CDU and Axel Springer will try their best, and needless to say the other side will be under-represented by comparison,” NewEurope concluded. It’s up to all of us to balance out that situation. Will you do your part?
Call your MEP now
Please use any one of the following free tools to call your MEP right now. I know calling politicians doesn’t come natural to most people, but it’s their job to represent you, and it’s more effective than you think! Here’s a guide to help you with what to say.
- Save Your Internet by the Copyright4Creativity alliance
- Change Copyright by Mozilla, the makers of Firefox
- Save The Link by the NGO OpenMedia
Once you’ve done that, tell your friends on social media. Be proud that you’ve taken action, and inspire others to follow your example.
One final note
Are you frustrated you have to constantly fight to defend your digital rights? You and me both.
But it’s important to me to underscore that the solution to bad legal proposals and unbalanced lobbying is not to curse or even advocate leaving the EU. (In fact, it’s anti-EU, Euro-skeptic and right-wing parties that are responsible for giving these proposals majority support in the Committee! Don’t let Eurosceptic politicians get away with voting in favor of breaking the Internet and then blaming the EU for it later!)
These problems exist at the national level as well, and regulating the internet in 28 different ways on one continent is utterly unworkable. The way forward is to participate fully in the EU political process: Pay more attention to EU lawmaking in its early stages, demand reporting on it from your local media, support European civil society organizations fighting for your rights (such as EDRi, Liberties.eu, Access Info, or Corporate Europe Observatory) and strengthen progressive parties at the ballot box.
Then we’ll be able to fight for positive change, and not just defend against the worst proposals. Until we get there: Grit your teeth and pick up the phone! The internet is worth it.