European policymakers are considering a massive shift in copyright policy that could be devastating to Internet platforms of all sizes, particularly startups that host user content.
Policymakers will vote next week on a new Copyright Directive, including a provision that requires all online platforms hosting user-generated content to actively monitor for copyright infringements using upload filtering technologies. This is a clear departure from previous copyright laws which established that websites have no general obligation to monitor user uploads and protected platforms from liability for user infringements, so long as they disabled access to infringements for which they receive notice.
The provision, referred to as “Article 13,” will place onerous and costly obligations on startups. Internet platforms will be forced to use upload filtering tools which are generally expensive and ineffective. As we have explained before, upload filters are easy to circumvent, incredibly limited in the types of media they can identify, and frequently misidentify content — such as parodies, memes or remakes — as copyright infringing. With its preemptive filtering requirement, Article 13 will unnecessarily limit Internet users’ freedom of information and expression.
Although Article 13’s drafters seem to think it targets large Internet companies, the burdens that the filtering obligation will create will fall hardest on small and new companies, entrenching existing market leaders. Only large companies have the resources and data to create their own filtering tools — indeed, YouTube famously spent $60 million developing its Content ID system. Smaller companies, even those that have virtually no copyright infringing material on their sites, will be forced to license expensive filtering tools from third party vendors. In the end, Article 13 will simply tilt the playing field in favor of large technology companies that have already invested substantially in content identification and are equipped to comply, putting startups at a competitive disadvantage and discouraging investment in new platforms.
Article 13 would be extremely harmful to startup activity and would create unreasonable obligations and liability for platforms hosting any user-uploaded content. If the European Parliament wishes to support a thriving startup ecosystem, they should abandon the drastic and counterproductive requirements in Article 13.
Join us in voicing your opposition to Article 13! We strongly urge you to call, tweet at, or otherwise contact MEPs through the following sites before the June 20th vote. Even if you are not an EU based company, your voice is important.
These are the key swing votes in the European Parliament, if you would like to target your efforts.
To learn more about Article 13 and how it affects the tech sector, both in the US and the EU, here are some useful resources;