Good News / Bad News: MEPs split on standing up for your rights
Key MEP committee disappoints the public and lets the link tax pass but stops the censorship machine.
A key vote on the dangerous EU copyright proposals — the link tax, and content filtering — took place this morning from the European Parliament committee responsible for consumer affairs.
Our rights online were hanging in the balance this morning, and now the votes are counted.
Bad news: The link tax is still here.
Shockingly, the committee that has a mandate to stand up for your rights voted to keep the European Commission’s link tax proposals.
There is no justification for MEPs to continue to back the link tax. Tens of thousands of European citizens have spoken up over and over again to say no to plans to restrict the way we share and access links.
Independent academic consensus is very clear: Over 60 academics unanimously slammed the proposals as harmful for the Internet. And let’s not forget that when the European Parliament was setting the groundwork for this law they voted ‘no to the link tax’.
In today’s vote, there were some small changes made:
1) Not applying it for 20 years retroactively.
At least some common sense shown here!
2) Specifying that urls themselves can be shared.
This is useful, but when links come with headlines and snippets of text automatically, it doesn’t actually save the link. And we all know that in practice, hyperlinks come with text, or you wouldn’t click on them.
These are mere gestures towards listening, but letting the Commission’s unwanted and unnecessary link tax plans pass through is not good enough.
Good news: Censorship machines are out
The public debate on the proposals for mandatory censorship machines did make an impact.
MEPs voted to approve a new proposal which removed the worst parts of this plan. They spell out in no uncertain terms that fundamental rights must be respected, and that mass spying for the sake of copyright is unacceptable. They also deleted a demand for ‘technology’ to determine what content can get posted. We never want to have robots determining what speech is allowed, so this is a step in the right direction.
These changes are good news! We would have preferred to see an outright deletion of Article 13’s content filtering mechanism, but at least a common sense seemed to prevail in dulling what was originally a truly terrible proposal.
The Commission’s original proposal forces websites where users create and share content to install technology to monitor and filter content before it is uploaded in case of copyright infringement. It blatantly goes against existing EU law that protects privacy, free expression and the rule of law; all of which were under attack here.
Despite ignoring their responsibility to consumers on the link tax, the committee made two other strong votes amendments:
1) They passed ‘Freedom of Panorama exception’ to carry across Europe: giving us the right to take photos of public buildings and sculptures.
2) A powerful ‘remix exception’ was added in. This is a huge win for the public. This means enshrining in law our right to use extracts of copyrighted content for parody, criticism, entertainment and pastiche. It means every day Internet behaviour like sharing memes might finally become legal!
Sadly the positives won today were overshadowed by many MEPs not attending the vote, meaning that decision-makers not showing up to work could be the reason we end up with a broken web.
However, those who did attend have no excuse for voting against the interest of their constituents. This vote is key in setting the tone for everything that follows, as the first committee to vote on the copyright proposals.
This is why we keep fighting. We started the Save the Link campaign in 2015 and we’re still here. We’ve had many victories along the way, but if we let our guard down behind-the-scenes pressure and bargains mean decision makers vote in plans that lobbyists, not constituents, are advocating.
To protect a truly open web, we must ensure that neither the link tax nor censorship machines appear in the final law. You can sign up to become part of the fight at www.savethelink.org