While the proposed E.U. directive is being backed by a number of artists’ associations and publishing companies, its critics fear that “upload filters” would disrupt free discourse online. Political debates on Twitter and Facebook often include the use of memes or GIFs, for instance, which may be deemed copyright infringements under the new rules.
Theoretically, the E.U. rules would protect the use of copyright-protected footage if it was only quoted, reviewed or caricatured, for example.
But in practice, automatic algorithms are unable to make that call.
“Misplaced confidence in filtering technologies to make nuanced distinctions between copyright violations and legitimate uses of protected material would escalate the risk of error and censorship,” said David Kaye, the U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of expression.
He also argued that the upload filter “appears destined to drive Internet platforms toward monitoring and restriction of user-generated content even at the point of upload. Such sweeping pressure for pre-publication filtering is neither a necessary nor proportionate response to copyright infringement online.”
The use of automatic filters would also put a financial strain on smaller platforms, even though the current directive would not affect most start-ups. Wikipedia and other major sites, however, fear that the European Union’s copyright initiative might end up making the Internet even more dominated by companies such as Google and Facebook — even though reining in their power has long been a declared goal of E.U. regulators.
More on WorldViews: