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What just happened? In March, the European Union passed its controversial Copyright Directive, passing the burden for copyright infringement from users to platforms. Poland, a member state, has filed a legal challenge to the directive, saying that it will lead to "preventative censorship."
First proposed in 2016, the EU passed the Copyright Directive after numerous failed votes and subsequent tweaks last March. Throughout the process to get it passed, critics maintained that the directive was stifling and poorly defined, and would have a devastating impact on the internet’s fundamental function as an information sharing service.
Proponents of the law said that it was about making sure fair compensation went to content creators – news sites, musicians, or artists – which in and of itself is a justifiable aim. The directive places the burden for infringement onto platforms, rather than users.
The problem though is that vague definitions and a lack of clarity about how to enforce such measures means that platforms are likely to over-filter content rather than leave themselves open to legal risks.
It is this issue that the Polish government is focusing on, and dubbing ‘preventative censorship’ in its new filing with the Court of Justice of the European Union – the EU’s top court. The Polish government says that the Copyright Directive “may result in adopting regulations that are analogous to preventive censorship, which is forbidden not only in the Polish constitution but also in the EU treaties.”
Tomorrow morning #Poland will bring a case before the #CJEU against the copyright directive, a disproportionate measure that fuels censorship and threatens freedom of expression. #Article13 #Article17 #ACTA2 pic.twitter.com/2VmQV8nFWu— Chancellery of the Prime Minister of Poland (@PremierRP_en) 23 May 2019
Alongside the announcement, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, tweeted that the new law is “a disproportionate measure that fuels censorship and threatens freedom of expression.”
Under current copyright law, platforms aren’t responsible for their users breaching rules as long as the company takes reasonable steps to remove anything infringing – YouTube’s handling of take-down requests is a good example. But under the new system, YouTube would be liable the moment a user uploads a video they don’t own the rights to, and so it’s likely that a new type of filter will need to be developed and deployed. In order to cover their own backs, platforms will almost certainly over-censor than under-filter.
Image credit: AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson