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EU votes for copyright law that will kill internet as we know it

Staff Writer |
A European parliament committee has voted for legislation that internet pioneers fear will turn the web into “a tool for surveillance and control”.

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In a key vote on a draft law to overhaul EU copyright rules, the parliament’s legal affairs committee on Wednesday voted for measures that would require the likes of Google and Microsoft to install filters to prevent users from uploading copyrighted materials.

The MEPs voted narrowly for the provision, despite warnings from some of the biggest names in the internet, and civil liberties campaigners, that the law would damage freedom of expression, while entrenching the power of the biggest companies and loading costs on to European startups.

The plans still have to be agreed with representatives from the EU’s 28 governments before becoming law, but the vote reduces the chances of serious changes.

One of the most controversial provisions, article 13, would require platforms, such as Google and Microsoft, to install filters. It was adopted by the committee by 15 votes to 10.

Earlier in June, an open letter signed by 70 of the biggest names of the internet, including the creator of the world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee, and the Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales, argued that article 13 would take “an unprecedented step towards the transformation of the internet from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users”.

“The damage that this may do to the free and open internet as we know it is hard to predict, but in our opinions could be substantial,” the letter said.

Addressed to MEPs, the internet pioneers argued that the cost would fall heavily on European tech companies, as the big platforms, which are exclusively American, could afford the costs of compliance.

Monique Goyens, the director general of the European Consumer Organisation, said MEPs had failed to find a solution to benefit consumers and creators.

“The internet as we know it will change when platforms will need to systematically filter content that users want to upload. The internet will change from a place where consumers can enjoy sharing creations and ideas to an environment that is restricted and controlled.”

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