Friday, 24 November 2017

Over 50 Human Rights & Media Freedom NGOs ask EU to Delete Censorship Filter & to Stop © Madness

On 16 October, over 50 NGOs representing human rights and media freedom (see the full list below) sent an open letter to the European Commission President, the European Parliament (EP) and the Council asking them to delete the censorship filter proposal (Article 13), as it “would violate the freedom of expression set out in (…) the Charter of Fundamental Rights” and “provoke such legal uncertainty that online services will have no other option than to monitor, filter and block EU citizens’ communications“. It is especially striking that organisations such as Reporters without Borders and Human Rights Watch, which are known to intervene for the protection of human rights in less democratic countries, have now been moved to the point where they felt the need to voice their concerns in this matter to ensure that EU citizens are safeguarded from the EU’s copyright agenda crushing their fundamental rights.

Article 13 of the proposal on Copyright in the Digital Single Market includes obligations on internet companies that would be impossible to respect without the imposition of excessive restrictions on citizens’ fundamental rights. – Open Letter

The letter also warns that “If EU legislation conflicts with the Charter of Fundamental Rights, national constitutional courts are likely to be tempted to disapply it and we can expect such a rule to be annulled by the Court of Justice“, and refers in this context to precedents such as the Data Retention Directive.

This letter is another strong signal to policymaker to stop the madness at play in the on-going copyright reform and to ensure that fundamental rights of EU citizens are upheld. Seven Member States, including Germany (see here and here), as well as a wide range of respected academics (see here, here, and here) have already expressed their concerns about the censorship filter, and now fundamental and digital rights NGOs have joined the chorus.

This call to the EU Institutions to get their act together comes just in time, ahead of the upcoming vote in the EP’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee on the Opinion by Rapporteur MEP Michal Boni (EPP, Poland) . The LIBE Committee is the last one to provide an Opinion to the lead Legal Affairs (JURI) Committee, and will thus send an important signal to the lead Rapporteur MEP Axel Voss (EPP, Germany) on how to move forward in his discussions with the Shadow Rapporteurs. It is noteworthy that when deciding on the appropriate measures to take when combating terrorism, the EU institutions deemed pre-emptive filters to be disproportionate, something that seems to have slipped their mind in this discussion.

Joe McNamee, Executive Director of EDRi, warns that:

The proposals in the Copyright Directive would relegate the European Union from a digital rights defender in global internet policy discussions to the leader in dismantling fundamental rights, to the detriment of internet users around the world”

A quick reminder: the EC put forward a censorship filter (Article 13 – see our video) compelling all online intermediaries hosting any type of user-uploaded content to prevent the availability of potential copyright-infringing material on their platform by implementing, in cooperation with the rightholders, effective automated content filtering technologies that block these uploads, and this under the pretence of solving the ‘value gap’ (see our video on that myth). This proposal unscrupulously brushes aside the e-Commerce Directive and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and freely reinterprets case law from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

Signatories of the Open Letter

Organisations Country/
Region
Access Info Spain
ActiveWatch Romania
Article 19 UK
Associação D3 – Defesa dos Direitos Digitais Portugal
Associação Nacional para o Software Livre (ANSOL) Portugal
Association for Progressive Communications (APC) Global
Association for Technology and Internet (ApTI) Romania
Association of the Defence of Human Rights in Romania  (APADOR) Romania
Associazione Antigone Italy
Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC) Bangladesh
Bits of Freedom (BoF) Netherlands
BlueLink Foundation Bulgaria
Bulgarian Helsinki Committee Bulgaria
Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) Global
Centre for Peace Studies Croatia
Centrum Cyfrowe Poland
Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties) Europe
Coalizione Italiana Liberta` e Diritti Civili (CILD) Italy
Code for Croatia Croatia
COMMUNIA Global
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Global
epicenter.works Austria
Estonian Human Rights Centre Estonia
European Digital Rights (EDRi) Europe
Freedom of the Press Foundation US
Frënn vun der Ënn Luxembourg
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights Poland
Hermes Center for Transparency and Digital Human Rights Italy
Human Rights Monitoring Institute Lithuania
Human Rights Watch Global
Human Rights Without Frontiers Global
Hungarian Civil Liberties Union Hungary
Index on Censorship Global
International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) Global
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) Global
Internautas Spain
JUMEN Germany
Justice & Peace Netherlands
La Quadrature du Net France
Media Development Centre Bulgaria
Miklos Haraszti (Former OSCE Media Representative) Individual
Modern Poland Foundation Poland
Netherlands Helsinki Committee Netherlands
One World Platform Global
Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) Global
Open Rights Group (ORG) UK
OpenMedia Global
Panoptykon Poland
Plataforma en Defensa de la Libertad de Información (PDLI) Spain
Reporters without Borders (RSF) Global
Rights International Spain Spain
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) Southeast Europe
South East European Network for Professionalization of Media (SEENPM) Southeast Europe
Statewatch UK
The Right to Know Coalition of Nova Scotia (RTKNS) Canada
Xnet Spain

 


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Herman Rucic is Senior Policy Manager in the secretariat of the Copyright 4 Creativity (C4C) coalition. He is Senior Policy Manager at N-square Consulting since September 2010.