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Act now: Tell your MEPs that copyright reform must facilitate access to knowledge!

It is less than a week before the decisive vote on the proposed Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. In the past few weeks MEPs have tried and failed to come up with a compromise position on the most controversial element of the directive proposal, the upload filters for online platforms that would be mandated by Article 13. As a result all options ranging from filtering obligations that would cripple online platforms to the deletion of Article 13 remain on the table for next week’s vote. On a positive note, MEP Dutch Marietje Schaake has tabled positive amendments to Article 3, which bring the exception as close as possible to the rule “The right to read is the right to mine”.

Article 13 still spells trouble for the knowledge community

We have been univocal in our conviction that the upload filters mandated by Article 13 are a terrible idea. They would limit the freedom of expression of European internet users and creators, and allow big corporate rightsholders to establish themselves as gatekeepers of cultural expression that would limit cultural diversity online. We are also concerned about the effects that filtering requirements would have on access to knowledge.

While most of the proposals on the table explicitly exclude open knowledge repositories like Wikipedia, open access publication platforms and free software repositories from the filtering obligations (and liability risks) established by Article 13, this does not guarantee that the directive will not limit access to knowledge and culture and damage the public domain. Exempting these service may protect them from the immediate negative effects of the Directive, but but it would not take away legal uncertainties for innovators in this space.. This is why projects from Wikipedia to GitHub to the library and research community still oppose Article 13. Just yesterday, Jimmy Wales, a Wikipedia co-founder, warned again that “foolish, detrimental changes to the law could make it really hard for future platforms to allow people the freedom to create.”

Jimmy Wales listening to MEP Voss

Jimmy Wales in discussion with MEP Axel Voss in the European Parliament (Sebastiaan ter BurgCC-BY)

The decentralised nature of the internet has enabled a radical opening up of knowledge and a culture of sharing that has reduced the ability of commercial intermediaries to control and limit access to knowledge for profit making purposes. The open access revolution in academic publishing (which has just been fully embraced in a number of EU member states) relies on open publication platforms. The same is true for open data, collaborative research and open education platforms. Adopting restrictive rules that apply to all platforms poses a real risk stifling our ability to share knowledge and empower educators, researchers and society as a whole. Furthermore, communities that exist around thee open knowledge platforms also depend on other services, when sharing knowledge and communicating. Adverse effects of Article 13 will apply to the knowledge community, even when its scope is narrowed.

Improved Article 3 can support Big Data and machine learning research in Europe

The European Commission’s proposal on article 3 has been consistently criticised both by us and by other experts from library and research communities. We believe that a text and data mining exception should not be limited just to research institutions, working for the purpose of scientific research. A version proposed by the JURI Committee in July offered some improvements, but was still deemed insufficient from the perspective of broad use of text and data mining techniques, especially by researchers collaborating with business entities.

This week, Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake has table a proposal for a strong text and data mining exception, as part of a broader package of progressive amendments. MEP Schaake, and over 30 other MEPs that support her proposal, rightly believe that the right to mine should apply not just to research institutions, but also to unaffiliated researchers, other members of the knowledge community and public and private entities – as long as they have legal access to the data.

Europe has recently expressed its ambition with regard to AI technologies – the Communication on “AI Strategy for Europe”, adopted in April 2018, states that “the EU can lead the way in developing and using AI for good and for all”. The approach taken by the Commission in the Copyright Directive felt oddly unaligned with this strategy, as insufficient text and data mining exception will constitute a barrier to European data scientists. The new amendment offers a chance to fix this problem.

The time to act is now!

The time to let MEPs know that forcing upload filters all platforms is short-sighted and detrimental to access to knowledge. Please go to and tell your MEPs to stop the harmful Article 13 upload filters and support a balanced copyright reform. Tell them to support the amendments to Article 13 tabled by the IMCO committee and the Greens.

A satire on the art business in which art experts and dealers who assess paintings are depicted as donkeys. After the drawing by Trémolières in the Hessisches Landes Museum in Darmstadt (cropped).
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