Last week, the parliament of the European Union narrowly voted to adopt copyright protectionist measures, at the urging of private corporations, that include a "link tax" on hyperlinks and force all but the smallest sites to police uploaded content for copyright registered material.1 Pirate Party Australia stands with the European digital rights community in opposing rent seeking copyright protectionist policies and will vigorously fight to prevent such restrictive laws from being implemented in Australia.
The link tax has already caused economic damage in the 5 years since it was implemented in Germany and has not proven to successfully monetise so called "secondary uses" of press publications.2 The policing of uploaded content will require either vast amounts of human staff manually approving content, or an automated filter which will hamper or shut down user generated content to the web's largest sites. Such an automated filter is prone to a high rate of failure equivalent to active censorship.3 As sites will now be automatically liable for all content uploaded, without even the inadequate protection of the American's Digital Millenium Copyright Act safe harbour provisions, websites will be forced to err on the side of caution and block significantly more than they are required to resulting in legal (or morally acceptable fair use) content uploads to be blocked.4
A spokesperson from a group supporting the amended legislation claimed it would force content hosts to "play fair" and close the "value gap" by preventing the exploitative use of content. Said spokesperson did not clarify whether they considered the fair use and non infringing user generated content (which would be blocked under the new legislation) to be exploitative.5 6
Meanwhile, a vigorous community campaign from tech and digital rights groups has been underway to defend the free and open internet.7
“Today’s decision is a severe blow to the free and open internet. By endorsing new legal and technical limits on what we can post and share online, the European Parliament is putting corporate profits over freedom of speech and abandoning long-standing principles that made the internet what it is today,” said Julia Reda of the European Pirate Party.2 The approved amendments have a longer process to go before being ratified and implemented by the member countries and the fight continues. Europeans have already begun fighting back by posting to a new EU-approved meme format containing no images but only text to describe the content in each panel. Pirate Party Australia stands ready to launch our own meme barrage in defence.