Academics Recommend to Drop Filtering Obligations from the EU Copyright Reform

As you might have noticed, there is a lot of activism on the copyright/intermediary liability side in Europe at the moment. Hence, I'm here announcing another opinion that I have co-drafted with an amazing team of scholars, including Martin Senftleben (lead author), Christina Angelopoulos, Valentina Moscon, Miquel Peguera and Ole Rognstad, and has been endorsed by more than sixty other acadamics so far:

The Recommendation on Measures to Safeguard Fundamental Rights and the Open Internet in the Framework of the EU Copyright Reform 

This Recommendation supports the argument that the proposed Article 13 of the Draft Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market will harm Europeans in their ability to enjoy their fundamental rights, including their right to privacy and freedom of expression; on a scale that by far exceeds the realm of copyright. In its Executive Summary, the Recommendation stresses that:

[t]he measures contemplated in Article 13 DSMD can hardly be deemed compatible with the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed under Articles 8 (protection of personal data), 11 (freedom of expression) and 16 (freedom to conduct a business) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. The application of filtering systems that would result from the adoption of Article 13 DSMD would place a disproportionate burden on platform providers, in particular small and medium-sized operators, and lead to the systematic screening of personal data, even in cases where no infringing content is uploaded. The filtering systems would also deprive users of the room for freedom of expression that follows from statutory copyright exceptions, in particular the quotation right and the right to parody. 

The adoption of Recital 38 DSMD would moreover lead to a remarkable restriction of eligibility for the liability privilege following from Article 14 of the E-Commerce Directive. Recital 38 DSMD does not adequately reflect the current status quo in the area of the safe harbour for hosting laid down by Article 14 E-Commerce Directive. Instead, it takes the assessment criteria of “promoting” and “optimising the presentation” of user-generated content out of the specific context of the L’Oréal/eBay decision of the Court of Justice. The general requirement of “knowledge of, or control over” infringing user-generated content is missing. In the absence of any reference to this central requirement, Recital 38 DSMD is incomplete and fails to draw an accurate picture of the current conceptual contours of the safe harbour for hosting.

Furthermore, there can be little doubt that according to the Court of Justice, Article 15 of the E-Commerce Directive is fully applicable to user-generated content platforms and intended to shield these platforms from general monitoring obligations. The Court’s jurisprudence shows clearly that an obligation to filter any information uploaded to the server of a platform hosting user-generated content would lead to a prohibited general monitoring obligation and be incompatible with Article 15 of the E-Commerce Directive.

In addition, the Recommendation believes that fair remuneration for authors and performers can be secured in different ways - without eroding fundamental rights and without far-reaching filtering mechanisms. In this regard, the Exectutive Summary also noted:

it would be consistent with the existing acquis to introduce a new use privilege in favour of the creation of content remixes and mash-ups by users and the further dissemination of these remixes and mash-ups on online platforms. As a countermove, online platforms with user-uploaded content could be responsible for the payment of fair compensation. They could either pass on these additional costs to their users, or use a part of their advertising income to finance the payment of fair compensation. To generate an additional revenue stream for authors and performers, this alternative solution is clearly preferable. It does not encroach upon fundamental rights and freedoms, and leaves intact the safe harbour for hosting in Article 14 of the E-Commerce Directive. 

The full text of the Recommendation is available here.

 

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