Global tech firms including Google, Twitter, and Facebook, are warning the U.S. Government against the threat of mandatory upload filters. Industry groups believe that the requirements mandated by the EU copyright directive harm the interests of US companies. In addition, tech companies are concerned about pirate site blocking developments in several EU countries.
Last year there were fierce protests against the EU Copyright Directive which, according to opponents, would result in broad upload filters on the web. Despite this pushback, the directive passed, and individual EU member states are now working on implementing the text into local law. This includes Article 17 (formerly Article 13), which requires many online services to license content from copyright holders. If that is not possible, these companies should ensure that infringing content is taken down and not re-uploaded to their services.
These new requirements are welcomed by rightsholders but many tech companies see them as a threat. This week, several industry groups issued a warning about the negative consequences in their submissions for the US Trade Representative’s Special 301 Report. The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), which includes Amazon, Cloudflare, Facebook, and Google as members, is one of the concerned groups. According to the CCIA, Article 17 will have significant consequences for both online services and users. “Online services must implement filtering technologies in order to comply with the requirements under Article 17. While Article 17 avoids the word ‘filter’, practically speaking content-based filtering will be required if a service is to have any hope of achieving compliance,” the group writes. CCIA notes that Article 17 will result in a ‘notice-and-staydown’ obligation. This goes against the current global standards that provide online services with a safe harbor against copyright infringements committed by users.
As a result, tech companies fear that they will no longer be able to operate freely in the EU. In some cases, that could mean that they can’t operate there at all. Contrary to claims from EU officials, CCIA believes that lawful activities carried out by users will be severely restricted. Technically speaking, fair use including memes and parodies will still be allowed. However, since these copyright exceptions can’t be determined by automatic filters, services may choose to remove more content than they have to.