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March 2017

Stop the censorship machine!

The undersigned, working to defend human and consumer rights around the world, express their deep concern regarding the European Commission's proposal to require Internet platforms to use automated upload filtering technologies. This legislative proposal also includes measures to weaken the current intermediary liability protections in European law. Although the proposal is contained in draft legislation on copyright in Europe, the impact will inevitably be felt in every policy area and will impact negatively on free speech and democracy around the globe.

In effect, the proposed upload filter obligation will build a system where citizens will face Internet platforms blocking the upload of their content, even if it is a perfectly legal use of copyrighted content.

This is an affront to the rule of law and freedom of expression. Logically, the computer programs used for filtering will be designed to ensure minimum risk and liability for those platforms. These programs cannot understand the functioning of crucial copyright exceptions that are implemented to support, just to name a few, education, parody, free speech and quotation. The European Commission's proposal places excessive power in the hands of copyright owners, despite many examples of past abuses of such power, genuine mistakes and cases where copyright claims have been used as a political censorship tool on a massive scale.

If Europe contravenes its own decades-old human rights framework that defends privacy and freedom of communication, the democratic and free speech rights of individuals around the globe will suffer. If these monitoring and filtering obligations are coupled with a weakening of Europe's balanced approach to intermediary liability, the damage to democratic and free speech rights of individuals around the globe will be compounded. Protection from liability is not a "privilege" for Internet companies, it is an essential mechanism to ensure that these companies are not incentivised to restrict the privacy and free speech rights of their users.

The proposal of the European Commission would

For the sake of the human rights of citizens in the European Union and around the globe, we urge the European institutions to reject Article 13 and the associated explanatory recitals of the European Commission's copyright proposal.

EDRi, Belgium
Consumentenbond, Netherlands
Center for Democracy & Technology, United States
Wikimedia Deutschland, Germany
International Legal Advice Center, Bulgaria
Asociatia pentru Tehnologie si Internet, Romania
Digital Rights Ireland, Ireland
Initiative für Netzfreiheit, Germany
vibe!at, Austria
Panoptykon Foundation, Poland
Centrum Cyfrowe, Poland
COMMUNIA Association for Public Domain, Europe
ANSOL, Portugal
Initiative gegen ein Leistungsschutzrecht, Germany, Austria
IT-Political Association, Denmark
Public Knowledge, United States
OpenMedia, Canada
EFF, United States
Xnet, Spain
Bitbureauet, Denmark
Digitalcourage, Germany
Open Rights Group, United Kingdom
Vrijschrift, Netherlands
Digitale Gesellschaft, Germany
SHARE Foundation, Serbia
GFOSS - Open Technology Alliance, Greece
Creative Commons, United States
Kennisland, Netherlands
Modern Poland Foundation, Poland
Bits of Freedom, Netherlands
BAIT, Bulgaria
Telecommunications Association, Bulgaria