New EU law could completely change how the internet works and outlaw memes, campaigners claim

'This would lead to the censorship of completely legal material'

Anthony Cuthbertson
Tuesday 19 June 2018 17:33 BST

The European Parliament is about to vote on a new law that campaigners claim could completely change "the free and open internet as we know it."

If passed, Article 13 would mean that large internet platforms like Facebook and Reddit would need to introduce automated filters that captured copyrighted content uploaded by their users.

It would potentially mean that tech companies would be forced to scan every single thing posted to their sites – and take down anything they think might be stolen.

Campaigners warned that one of the biggest casualties of the proposed legislation would be online memes, which often use images that are subject to copyright.

Prominent figures from the tech industry wrote an open letter to the President of the European Parliament warning that Article 13 represented an "imminent threat" to the future of the internet.

"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," the open letter warns.

"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... For the sake of the internet's future, we urge you to vote for the deletion of this proposal."

The signatories of the letter, who included included inventor of the World Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, also questioned the legality of the proposed law by saying it might go against the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Others against the proposed copyright law include David Kaye, a UN Special Rapporteur and expert in freedom of expression.

In a nine-page letter published online, Mr Kaye said he was "seriously concerned" that Article 13 would result in censorship and a "regime of active monitoring."

Another opponent is Jim Killock, executive director of Open Rights Group, who said in a statement shared with The Independent: "Article 13 would create a Robo-copyright regime that would zap any image, text, meme or video that appears to include copyright material.

"This would lead to the censorship of completely legal material, including news and campaigning videos, seriously damaging free expression."

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