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Yesterday, March 21, four versions of Wikipedia, German, Danish, Czech, and Slovak were blacked off as a move to oppose the recent EU Copyright Directive, which will be up for voting on Tuesday, March 26. These long-awaited updates to the copyright law include “important wins for the open community in the current text”, the Wikimedia foundation reports. However, “the inclusion of Articles 11 and 13 will harm the way people find and share information online”, Wikimedia further states. However, the major opposition is towards the controversial Article 13.

Article 11 states that if a text contains more than a snippet from an article, it must be licensed and paid for by whoever quotes the text. “While each country can define “snippet” however it wants, the Directive does not stop countries from making laws that pass using as little as three words from a news story”, the Electronic Frontier Foundation mentions.

Article 13 is, however, the most controversial and is all set to restructure how copyright works on the web. As of now, in order to take down content that is subject to copyright infringement, the rights holder just have to send a ‘takedown notice’. However, with Article 13 in place, there will be no protection for online services and also “relieves rights-holders of the need to check the Internet for infringement and send out notices. Instead, it says that online platforms have a duty to ensure that none of their users infringe copyright.”

According to The Next Web, “To make people understand how serious the effects of the Copyright Reform will be if it’s passed, Reddit and Wikipedia will hinder access to their sites in the EU to mimic the effects of the directive.”

Both Article 11 and 13 were reintroduced under the leadership of German Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Axel Voss. However, these had already been discarded as unworkable after expert advice. “Voss’s insistence that Articles 11 and 13 be included in the final Directive has been a flashpoint for public anger, drawing criticism from the world’s top technical, copyright, journalistic, and human rights experts and organizations”, the Electronic Frontier Foundation reports.

“Critics say the politicians behind the legislation do not understand the breadth of the laws they are proposing, and that the directive, if implemented, will harm free expression online”, The Verge reports.

Platforms such as Tumblr, YouTube, and many others, that host user-generated content will be under the radar if Article 13 is passed and will be legally responsible if the users upload copyrighted content. According to The Verge, “The only way to stop these uploads, say critics, will be to scan content before its uploaded, leading to the creation of filters that will likely be error-prone and abused by copyright trolls.”

Many have protested against Article 13 in recent weeks. In Germany, about 3,500 people took out a rally in Berlin as a protest against the new copyright plans. Also, a petition Save the Internet has already gathered more than five million signatures. Reddit has also taken an action against the Copyright Directive by flashing a simulated error message citing failure when Reddit desktop users in EU countries attempt to make a top-level post on Reddit. According to Reddit, “This experience, meant to mimic the automated filters that users would encounter should the Directive pass, will last through March 23rd, when IRL demonstrations are planned across Europe.

Julia Reda, a member of the European Parliament from Germany, in her blog post mentions, “For two years we’ve debated different drafts and versions of the controversial Articles 11 and 13. Now, there is no more ambiguity: This law will fundamentally change the internet as we know it – if it is adopted in the upcoming final vote. But we can still prevent that!”

United Nations’ free-speech rapporteur, David Kaye, said, “Europe has a responsibility to modernize its copyright law to address the challenges of the digital age. But this should not be done at the expense of the freedom of expression that Europeans enjoy today… Article 13 of the proposed Directive appears destined to drive internet platforms toward monitoring and restriction of user-generated content even at the point of upload. Such sweeping pressure for pre-publication filtering is neither a necessary nor proportionate response to copyright infringement online.”

A user on HackerNews writes, “I hope they win and that Article 11 and 13 will be removed. I think this is an important moment in the birth of EU democracy because it feels to me that one of the first times, there is a big public discussion about an issue and the people at the center aren’t national politicians like Merkel or Macron but EU MEPs, namely Voss vs Reda. The EU has rightfully been criticized of not being democratic enough, and this discussion feels like it’s very much democratic.”

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