Wikipedia's warning: EU copyright changes threaten the internet itself

In just one week, Members of the European Parliament will debate and vote on the new EU Copyright Directive, which contains two of the worst, most dangerous internet proposals in living memory.

One proposal, the Link Tax (Article 11), bans linking to news sites (but doesn't define "linking" or "news sites") unless the service you're using has paid for a license with all the "news sites" you might possibly link to.

The other, Censorship Machines (Article 13), forces online services to check everything a user wishes to publish against a database of "copyrighted works" (except anyone can add anything to these databases, regardless of whether they are copyrighted) and to censor anything that is a match or near-match for anything in the database.

The draft rules try to carve out an exception for Wikipedia — it's nowhere near good enough — but even with that exemption, Wikipedians are justifiably angry and scared about these proposals.

In a new post, Wikimedia Foundation Chair María Sefidari Huici describes the proposals as a threat to "the vibrant free web" that gave rise to Wikipedia and calls next week's vote the "last few moments of what could be our last opportunity to define what the internet looks like in the future."

The Foundation wants the EU to create copyright rules for the 21st century that take account of the "dramatically larger, more complex digital world and to remove cross-border barriers" — not to continue the path of focusing only on "the market relationships between large rights holders and for-profit internet platforms."

Are you a European? Visit Save Your Internet right now. Do you know a European? Send them that link. There's only one internet and we all use it: if the EU breaks the internet, it will be broken for all of us, not just the 400+ million EU residents.

We urge EU representatives to support reform that adds critical protections for public domain works of art, history, and culture, and to limit new exclusive rights to existing works that are already free of copyright.

The world should be concerned about new proposals to introduce a system that would automatically filter information before it appears online. Through pre-filtering obligations or increased liability for user uploads, platforms would be forced to create costly, often biased systems to automatically review and filter out potential copyright violations on their sites. We already know that these systems are historically faulty and often lead to false positives. For example, consider the experience of a German professor who repeatedly received copyright violation notices when using public domain music from Beethoven, Bartók, and Schubert in videos on YouTube.

Your internet is under threat. Here's why you should care about European Copyright Reform [María Sefidari Huici/Wikimedia Foundation]

Wikimedia warns EU copyright reform threatens the 'vibrant free web' [Natasha Lomas/TechCrunch]

Wikimedia Warns: EU Copyright Directive Could Drastically Change The Internet We Know And Love [Mike Masnick/Techdirt]