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An open letter to the Members of the European Parliament

Vladimír Záhradník
March 24th, 2019 · 2 min read

Dear Members of the European Parliament,

After two years of continuous talks, next week, you’ll vote about a proposal on the directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market. In my opinion, the presented proposal in its current form is not good. It didn’t incorporate many of the comments and improvements suggested by the leading experts, even though they had repeatedly argued them. You can read some of their statements in English on the following page: https://saveyourinternet.eu/statements/

I have the most significant reservations about the present Article 17 (formerly Article 13). It obliges online platforms to check all uploaded content for copyright infringement. If the material infringes a copyright and the platform does not remove it, the platform itself is legally liable. Although it may seem simple on paper, it is much more challenging to comply with such a regulation.

With the amount of content being uploaded, it is impossible to check the content manually, so companies must use error-prone technologies. As an example, I’ll mention YouTube, currently probably the largest video sharing platform. Automated algorithms often misidentify videos that allegedly infringe copyright. It also applies to cases where a piece of a protected musical work is heard in the background for two seconds in the video. Such content is flagged too, despite the music not the central theme of the video. Such footage is subject to fair use but is still flagged as infringing video.

If the directive were valid, it is likely that such a video will be pre-emptively removed from the platform so that the platform does not face a fine. It will have a significant impact on independent content creators who make a living from producing videos. And I think it will also significantly affect freedom of speech on the Internet and pluralism of opinion.

While this may not be obvious at first glance, this article will not only affect video platforms. As a programmer, I am a big fan of open-source software development, and I am also actively involved in it. If the directive is transposed in the present proposal, software management platforms, and many others, will have to introduce control over uploaded content. In the case of software, at best, its development will become more expensive, and its quality will also suffer. You can read more in the older GitHub blog here: https://github.blog/2018-03-14-eu-proposal-upload-filters-code/

Last but not least, the directive will also affect the business environment and competitiveness in the European market. If I decide that I want to launch a new content sharing platform, I will not succeed in the European market. As a small startup, I will not have the funds to build an automated content control system. That is also why young startups strongly oppose this proposal.

In the previous lines, I have indicated only some of the problems that will arise if the directive is approved. Although I think that the amendment to the Copyright Act is useful and beneficial, it will do more harm than good in its current form. Please consider your decision well.

For the reasons mentioned above, I ask you to rejected Article 17 (formerly Article 13) of the Copyright Directive in the vote held on 26 March 2019 at 6:30 PM and to side with many citizens who spoke out against the proposal.

Every vote has a price; use it to save freedom on the Internet.

#SaveYourInternet

Best regards,
Vladimír Záhradník,
Chmiňany 38,
082 33 Chmiňany

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