#HumansOfCopyright: Interview with Éva Simon
Éva Simon is Advocacy Officer at the Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties), a relatively new non-governmental organisation (NGO) promoting the civil liberties of citizens in the EU. Liberties is built on a network of national NGOs working in this field from across the EU. Currently, it has member organisations in Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and an associated partner in Germany. Its aim is to include NGOs from all 28 EU countries. The interview took place at the ‘Humans Of Copyright – Real Life Stories‘ event in March 2018.
GM: Could you please introduce yourself and your organisation?
ES: My name is Éva Simon, and I am working for Liberties, which is a Berlin-based human rights organisation. This is an umbrella organisation: we have 16 members, all over the European Union in the member states, and we are focussing on human rights issues among others – freedom of expression and privacy issues. Our main focus is policy making at the EU level, but we also deal with public education issues.
GM: To what extent does copyright pose a problem for freedom of expression?
ES: It seems that the new draft Copyright Directive endangers fundamental rights – human rights, and especially freedom of expression. What we can see here is the draft Copyright Directive imposes an obligation on certain online platforms to filter user-generated content. That’s an issue which tells us that at the EU level fundamental rights are not taken seriously enough, even though from history we know that if freedom of expression, or other fundamental rights such as privacy, and data protection, are not taken seriously, there are serious consequences.
GM: What kind of thing do you have in mind?
ES: If we look back to the Data Retention Directive, the human rights scene protested against it, and we kept saying that it was breaching privacy and the fundamental rights. The EU legislators didn’t take into account our arguments, and finally it ended up at the European Court of Justice. The European Court of Justice declared that the Directive was violating the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights [and struck it down as a result].
So this is what happens if something is passed at the EU level. At the member states’ level it will be challenged, it will go to court. It’s very time consuming, people’s fundamental rights will be violated, but in the end we can rely on the European Court of Justice [to address the underlying issues]. And we hope that in these cases at least the Court will say something [about the legality of the upload filtering]. However, it would be much better to avoid these traps and have the proper evaluation of how fundamental rights are affected by draft legislation.
What we can see here is that instead of taking into account the citizens’ interests and fundamental rights, it just seems that the Copyright Directive is more likely based on commitments towards big companies that lobby effectively at the EU level. Instead of focussing on citizens as well and other rights such as copyright, it’s not really balanced. The real problem is that there are two different types of right that we can see at stake: [people’s] freedom of expression, and privacy. Not only their freedom of expression will be limited, but also they will be monitored, so their privacy will be breached.
On the one hand there are fundamental rights, and on the other hand there are the copyrights. And these two types of rights should be in balance, but these are imbalanced at the moment – fundamental rights are not taken seriously enough. Instead, it’s more like the copyright the EU is focussing on. And that’s a huge problem.
GM: So what would you like to see happen to Article 13?
ES: Just get rid of this article. Copyright is properly protected in other parts of the Copyright Directive, there is no need to impose this extra obligation on Internet platforms. I’m not saying there are no other problems within the Copyright Directive, such as Article 11. But if you think about Article 13, the solution is not to carve out certain services, but it’s just to delete [it].
Featured CC0 image by Delmi Alvarez.