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Article 13: controversial provision of Copyright Directive

The European Parliament is about to vote in a plenary session on the final wording of the Copyright Directive. A substantial controversy is raised by its Article 13, which introduces the obligation to filter the content posted by users of online services on the pretences of providing protection of users’ rights.

“The proposed wording of Article 13 of the Copyright Directive changes the current system of operation of online content sharing services: it obligates them to remove content that has been identified as proprietary works. In practice, this means that content sharing platforms will have to introduce a system of content filters”, HFHR’s Dominika Bychawska-Siniarska explains. So far, Internet intermediaries, including content sharing services, have been treated as “advertising columns” that only provide space for different types of third-party content. Now, according to Article 13, these columns will read and “unfasten” posters that they consider unlawful. In consequence, on the one hand, content sharing services will take control over and responsibility for the published content, but on the other, they will be exercising the power of censorship”, adds Ms Bychawska-Siniarska. “While the owners and authors of content should be properly remunerated, the principal liability for the content should not be imposed on content sharing platforms. In practice, if this system is put in place, it will be the Silicon Valley online corporations who will have a say on what content is or isn’t available for EU users. This situation seems to pose a risk to freedom of speech”, concludes Dominika Bychawska-Siniarska.

According to the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, online services should only be liable for hateful content that has been brought to their attention. In addition, this liability is only imposed on services that make money on online content (Delfi v. Estonia and Index.hu v. Hungary).

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