The European Commission has issued an apology and been forced to delete a blog about its copyright legislation, which had dubbed opponents of the proposals a “mob”.
The post, headlined “How the mob was told to save the dragon and slay the knight“, had suggested that opposition to the imminent legislation was being whipped up by US tech platforms, which stand to lose if the policy proposals are enacted.
The post, published late last week, read: “It appears as if the largest search and video platforms in the world are afraid of regulation — despite having overwhelming dominance on the internet.”
“There is ample evidence from respected sources… that ‘Big Technology’ has even ‘created’ grassroots campaigns against the Copyright Directive in order to make it look and sound as if the EU is acting against the ‘will of the people’”.
(YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has warned Youtubers the legislation could “dramatically threaten your livelihood”, while as the Register reports, campaign groups linked to Google via its registered lobbyist N-Square have “deluged MEPs with bot-generated email traffic… Each MEP received around 60,000 emails protesting the change”.)
The Commission, the EU’s executive arm, which is responsible for drawing up proposals for new European legislation, deleted the post late last week in the face of a growing outcry from MEPs and activists.
The page now reads: “This article published by the Commission services was intended to reply to concerns, but also to misinterpretations that often surround the copyright directive proposal. We acknowledge that its language and title were not appropriate and we apologise for the fact that it has been seen as offending.”
Rarely have I been so disillusioned with politics. We are not against this legislation because we're bots, or because we've all been bought by Google et al. We're against it because we don't want, and don't trust, Google et al. to filter our content. #SaveYourInternet https://t.co/l3odGFlUap
— Tobias Lutzi (@toblu_de) February 16, 2019
Critics had decried the post as equating all criticism of the legislation with vested interests.
Dear commissioner @Ansip_EU, dear president @JunckerEU will you apologize to the young European citizens you called "mob"? It's good that you deleted the article but honest apologies by the @EU_Commission should be expressed quickly! #Artikel13 #SaveYourInternet #UploadFilters pic.twitter.com/IvhQ75tJZe
— Tiemo Wölken 🇪🇺 (@woelken) February 16, 2019
The furore came as the final copyright legislation was set to be put before the Committee of Permanent Representatives in the European Union on Wednesday.
Critics have warned that mandatory upload filters and copyright licensing provisions in article 13 of the proposed EU copyright law would push smaller open source software developers out of Europe and threaten the code-sharing platforms they depend on.”
Read this: EU Copyright Reform: The Facts (by Mozilla)
Mozilla has warned against the legislation, saying that “Internet services of all sizes will be forced to implement automatic filtering technology, likely suppressing anything that looks like it might be infringing copyright, irrespective of whether the user has a right or permission to use the content.”
Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda has been among the most vocal opponents of the legislation. In a recent post she says if it is passed, commercial sites and apps where users can post material “must make “best efforts” to preemptively buy licences for anything that users may possibly upload – that is: all copyrighted content in the world. An impossible feat.”
“The secret discussions have ended with the worst version of the “Censorship machine” we have seen so far. Citizens need to react, once again, to prevent these upload filters that threaten our freedom of expression from becoming reality” said Diego Naranjo, Senior Policy Advisor at European Digital Rights.
The Commission says the the proposals will “help European copyright industries to flourish in a Digital Single Market and European authors to reach new audiences, while making European works widely accessible to European citizens, also across borders. Its FAQ on the proposals can be read here.