Jimmy Wales, Tim Berners-Lee in warn that EU 'copyright filter' will mean 'automated surveillance'

Proposed EU copyright laws would undermine EU dot-coms, campaigners warn

Jimmy Wales and Tim Berners-Lee are among the 70 big names that have signed an open letter to the President of the European Parliament, warning that proposals for a 'copyright filter' in the forthcoming copyright directive will make the internet in the EU a "tool for... automated surveillance".

The plans are enshrined in Article 13 of the proposed Directive for Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive (PDF), which is scheduled for a crunch vote in the European Parliament on 20 or 21 June.

The letter, one of several over the past few months, warns that "Article 13 takes an unprecedented step towards the transformation of the Internet, from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users".

Article 13 will make all websites directly liable for any instance of copyright infringement, effectively forcing them to install content filters to detect potential copyright violations.

Campaigners argue that it will do a lot more than prevent internet services in Europe from circulating pirated episodes of Game of Thrones: any platform that ordinary internet users could contribute to would be affected.

That means that Wikipedia, GitHub, Twitter, Facebook and many other popular websites - not all of them profit-making or run by for-profit organisations - would be weighed down by the measure.

The draconian restrictions would even outlaw memes, campaigners argue, and would clash with the liberal fair usage clauses of US copyright laws.

Furthermore, although the directive is intended to support the EU's Digital Single Market initiative and, hence, online business in the EU, the extra burden - on top of GDPR - will be particularly onerous for loss-making start-ups. Many, campaigners claim, will be forced out of the EU.

It may also be open to challenge: the letter points out the opinion of the Max Planck Institute that suggests that the measure is probably contrary to the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, as well as Article 15 of the InfoSoc Directive.

The letter continues: "We support the consideration of measures that would improve the ability for creators to receive fair remuneration for the use of their works online.

"But we cannot support Article 13, which would mandate Internet platforms to embed an automated infrastructure for monitoring and censorship deep into their networks. For the sake of the Internet's future, we urge you to vote for the deletion of this proposal."