Friday, 19 July 2024

MEPs’ email says Article 13 “will not filter the internet”; JURI MEP’s tweet says it will

Next week, the European Parliament will hold an important vote on the Copyright Directive. It will decide whether or not it needs to be amended significantly, or can be sent straight to the final negotiations, the so-called “trilogues”, where only minor changes are likely. The stakes are high. The copyright industry is close to succeeding in its efforts to muzzle its hated enemy, the open Internet. If Article 13 is adopted in its present form, it would change online life in the EU dramatically, and not for the better.

The lobbying around Thursday’s vote is becoming intense. The main supporters of the Copyright Directive, including the Rapporteur Axel Voss, have sent an email to all their fellow MEPs (available from Politico), lamenting the “unprecedented spam campaign flooding our inboxes regarding the Copyright Reform.” Evidently worried by some of the points raised by emails “flooding” inboxes, the missive continues: “we thought it wise to explain why all these spam emails are factually incorrect and do not reflect the actual text on Articles 11 and 13 that were voted for in JURI Committee.”

Astonishingly, that “explanation” repeats all the old errors and misinformation. For example, it insists that Article 13 “will not filter the internet”, yet the email to the MEPs goes on to say: “specific copyright protected content will be identified on the basis of information provided by the artists to the platforms (digital fingerprint)”, which is precisely how filters work.

Just a few days before the email was sent out, a senior member of the JURI Committee, Jean-Marie Cavada, even went so far as to tweet triumphantly about the inclusion of upload filters (original in French, shown above), along the lines of: “#CopyrightDirective: creation of a neighbouring right and automatic filtering of online content, a big step forward!”. They may not all say it in public, but everyone in JURI must know that Article 13 will require filtering, with all the negative consequences this inevitably entails.

In other words, it is the MEPs’ letter that is “factually incorrect”, not the emails criticising the Copyright Directive. However, here I do not intend to go through all the other statements that are being used to mislead MEPs. I’ve already addressed many of those issues previously on CopyBuzz, and there is also an excellent new line-by-line explanation of what the final text of Article 13 really means, put together by EDRi.

Instead, I want to address a larger issue that the email to MEPs raises: the use of the word “spam”. For ordinary citizens, the sending of emails via special sites set up for that purpose is often the only practical way they have of making their voices heard. Indeed, for many it represents an unprecedented advance beyond their usual passive role in the political process. The democratic engagement it shows is something that should be celebrated, not condemned. If anything, it’s a reflection of the failure of the EU to provide better channels for people to express their views on topics they feel strongly about. We’ve already noted on CopyBuzz that the formal EU consultations are inherently biased against the general public. No wonder that citizens turn to sites that make it easy for them to join the debate.

There’s clearly a general problem that the EU needs to address here. But as far as the Copyright Directive is concerned, the email from the pro-Article 13 MEPs provides an opportunity. One of its assertions is that “the campaign we are under does not originate from genuinely concerned citizens”. If tens of thousands of EU citizens can write emails to EU representatives in their own words, then MEPs will have to take them seriously, and listen to the concerns of their constituents. The SaveYourInternet site makes it easy to email, call or tweet to your MEPs. As well as using your own words for your message, please try to come up with your own subject line too in order to prevent emails being sent straight to the spam bucket. That’s been good practice for years, but it’s particularly important for this correspondence.

And if you are wondering whether it is worth even trying at such a late stage, remember this. Six years ago, a piece of legislation called the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which like Article 13 would have caused serious harm the Internet, was rejected by the European Parliament, in large part thanks to a massive email campaign by ordinary citizens. We did it then, we can do it now.

Writer (Rebel Code), journalist, blogger. on openness, the commons, copyright, patents and digital rights. [All content from this author is made available under a CC BY 4.0 license]