During the past several years, the EU has been working on proposals that would make Europe a Digital Single Market. If such a scheme were implemented, any person or organisation could purchase products and services online from any EU country regardless of where they are usually domiciled. For instance, services provided by streaming companies, such as Netflix, would be identical in each country. However, there is another section of this proposal that has generated many concerns. This week, major civil rights organisations wrote a letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and other EU officials strongly expressing their opposition to the proposal.
The section in dispute is Article 13 of the proposed Digital Single Market. The article would require online social media companies, such as Facebook and YouTube, to constantly scan digital content that individuals and businesses upload to ensure that the material does not violate any copywrites. This practice would replace the current procedures where social media companies remove content from their platforms only when they receive a formal notification of copyright infringement. While entertainment companies have expressed support for Article 13, a coalition of dozens of digital rights groups, led by European Digital Rights and the Civil Liberties Union for Europe, wrote their open letter requesting that the EU remove the article from the proposals.
In their letter, the coalition stated: “Article 13 of the proposal on Copyright in the Digital Single Market include obligations on internet companies that would be impossible to respect without the imposition of excessive restrictions on citizens’ fundamental rights. In particular, the requirement to filter content in this way would violate the freedom of expression set out in Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. If internet companies are required to apply filtering mechanisms in order to avoid possible liability, they will. This will lead to excessive filtering and deletion of content and limit the freedom to impart information on the one hand, and the freedom to receive information on the other.”
The coalition noted that the Court of Justice has twice rejected similar proposals and that it would likely reject Article 13 as well.