Frederico

By Frederico Oliveira da Silva

Frederico works as a Legal Officer at BEUC, The European Consumer Organisation, and is part of the Digital Policy team, where he focuses on intellectual property rights and cyber security. Prior to joining BEUC, Frederico worked as a junior lawyer in Lisbon in a public affairs consultancy firm in Brussels. A Portuguese national, Frederico is fluent in English and French. He studied law at the University of Lisbon and holds a Master in EU Law from the College of Europe in Bruges, as well as Postgraduate degree from the European Institute of the University of Lisbon. He can be contacted at fsi@beuc.eu

Consumers love sharing content online. Over the last decade, the rise of Facebook, Vimeo or Twitter transformed the Internet into a place where consumers can express themselves and where they can easily share their creations with their friends and family.

Today, consumers are used to making a video of their holidays or their daughter’s first steps, adding a popular song and posting it online for their friends to watch and comment. It was this culture of creating and sharing that helped make the Internet as popular as it is today.

Next stop: filternet?

Unfortunately, we are concerned that all these popular and routine activities could be made all but impossible. The European Parliament and Member States are weighing a proposal for a Copyright Directive – a deal could still be reached this month.

“The widespread use of filters could have as a result that perfectly legal content created by consumers with no commercial interest whatsoever – e.g. holiday videos and home movies – may be automatically removed from the Internet.”

If this proposal becomes law, many consumers might face unjustified obstacles when uploading their creations – made without any commercial purpose – due to copyright protection issues.

The infamous article 13

Part of the proposal is the already (in)famous article 13. It would change the current paradigm by making online platforms responsible for the content that is uploaded on their websites. As a consequence, platforms would have to prevent specific content, for instance a copyright protected song, from being uploaded.

Consumers should not be side-lined and suffer collateral damage from an economic war between platforms and rightholders. They should be protected under copyright rules.

In order to comply with the proposed new EU copyright rules, online platforms may have no other option than to automatically filter all the content that is being uploaded on their services. As recent examples have shown [1] [2] [3], automatic filters are not intelligent enough to distinguish between legal content and content that breaches copyright law. The widespread use of filters could have as result that perfectly legal content created by consumers with no commercial interest whatsoever – e.g. holiday videos and home movies – may be automatically removed from the Internet.

Collateral damage in tug of war

Just try to imagine how the Internet would look like today without consumers’ ability to share, comment on and like their friends’ content.

Consumers should not be side-lined and suffer collateral damage from an economic war between platforms and rightholders. They should be protected under copyright rules. This could be done for example with the introduction of a user-generated content exception. This is a consumer safeguard measure and would function as a green light for the upload of non-commercial content.

“In order to comply with the proposed new EU copyright rules, online platforms may have no other option than to automatically filter all the content that is being uploaded on their services.”

In practice, this exception would allow people to legally use parts of existing works – for instance a film scene from or part of a song – in their own creations and share them online with their friends and family – as long as it would not affect the economic rights of the rightholder [4].

This would be a modern copyright law that would benefit both creators and consumers. Authors and creators must receive the remuneration they deserve but consumers’ freedom of expression must be protected as well.

Read more about BEUC’s work on the copyright reform.

[1] https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-42580523

[2] https://thenextweb.com/eu/2018/09/11/copyright-takedown-notices-are-completely-baroque-en/

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/dec/04/images-of-jesus-superheroes-caught-up-tumblr-porn-ban

[4] Copyright exceptions have to comply with the ‘Three Step Test’ established in Article 9 of the Berne Convention. This principle establishes that all copyright exceptions should not undermine the normal exploitation of a work and should not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the author.

This article was originally published on BEUC’s website.