The European Parliament JURI committee will be voting on 20th June 2018 on reforms of the EU copyright laws (full law proposal). According to a Creative Commons article titled 'Act now to stop the EU’s plan to censor the web':

The final copyright directive will have deep and lasting effects on the ability to create and share, to access and use education and research [...]

The author also argues that Article 13 would limit freedom of expression since copyright-filters would have a hard time distinguishing fair use from unauthorized copyright use.

[...] it puts into jeopardy the sharing of video remixes, memes, parody, and code, even works that include openly licensed content

FSFE's Openforum wrote an open letter, supported by GitHub, Debian, LibreOffice, SUSE, KDE and others, which states:

The proposed Article 13 of the EU Copyright Directive targets every online service that allows its users to upload and share content with each other, including code hosting platforms.

Under this proposal code hosting platforms will be compelled to prevent any possible copyright infringement by developing fundamentally flawed filtering technologies. These filtering algorithms will ultimately decide what material software developers should be allowed to share.

[...] This restricts the freedom of developers to use specific software components and tools that in return leads to less competition and less innovation.

(emphasis mine)

Do these copyright proposals represent a risk for Stack Exchange?

Update:

  • The EU committee has approved the new copyright rules. It will be voted on by the European Parliament on July.

  • Creative Commons twitted:

    @EP_Legal has adopted both Article 11 (#linktax) and Article 13 (#CensorshipMachines). It’s a dark day for the open web, but the fight will continue in the upcoming plenary vote in the European Parliament. #SaveYourInternet #SaveTheLink #FixCopyright

    — Creative Commons (@creativecommons) June 20, 2018

  • 162 companies sign against the law.

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    Detecting and preventing people from uploading copyrighted content is something not even Google has managed effectively. I'm thinking the people who proposed this have not considered how impractical this is. – Alexander O'Mara Jun 8 at 20:16
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    Doesn’t really effect anything submitted at any StackExchange website anyways. Any copyright material currently requires a citation and quotation of the original source anyway. Which is more than enough for anything quoted in an answer – Ramhound Jun 8 at 21:00
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    @Ramhound the problem seems to be content-filters which are supposed to block/remove copyrighted material. I don't think there will be enough europeans to man the moderator positions needed to do that right. So we probably end-up with a badly trained bayesian/regex thing that outright dumps everything it stumbles upon. – rene Jun 8 at 22:36
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    I have a feeling this would be better served on law.SE – Rory Alsop Jun 10 at 8:33
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    @AlexanderO'Mara They did consider it. Their objective is only to force any website to buy filtering technologies (so that the filtering companies can make more money) and to allow random rightsholders to sue any website for nearly infinite liabilities. – Nemo Jun 12 at 11:01
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    I've pinged our legal folks about this. As far as I can tell we're just a bystander with no certain (or minimal) impact on our end, but I'd like to get a more qualified opinion from our non-fake legal department. I run the fake one. – Tim Post Jun 12 at 13:27
  • @TimPost see also eff.org/deeplinks/2018/06/… – Nemo Jun 12 at 13:59
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    Also note that this content also counts for uploaded images and such. When users upload images to stack exchange and some of those are copyrighted stackoverflow will have to filter those, or imgur, or both. – Tschallacka Jun 12 at 14:06
  • @AlexanderO'Mara - "not even Google" implies that Google are motivated to try very hard. Why would they be when they get a ton of money from content created by other content creators on platforms such as you tube and can just take it down on complaint? – Martin Smith Jun 17 at 13:50

What's scary about this are the unknowns. We really don't know what the impact will mean for us, or imgur, or other friends - we don't know what the outcome of the vote will be, or what the final legislation will look like.

We're, like many other US companies that cater to the world, bystanders in this that could possibly also get hit. But:

  • We don't really have a voice here. We are potentially affected, but we're not a constituent. That stinks.
  • We're open to ways we could possibly have some influence, that doesn't end in us actively lobbying.

Is this worth a blog post? Is it worth a call to action? Anything even remotely political tends to behave in a very volatile way within our community and we're .. well, reluctant to use the company voice for those purposes without some call for it.

But all we can do is remind folks in the EU that they do have a voice, but other organizations are already doing that, would adding one more logo to it really help? (That's not a rhetorical question).

The answer is: You tell us. If it's reasonable and our legal eagles sign off on it, it'll get done.

  • 1
    Because of the required copyright filter this would basically mean you have to shut down all European operations and block Europe. As a site dependent on user created content it's nearly impossible to block every single possible infringement like the law would require. – Mgetz Jun 12 at 15:24
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    Why don't you actively lobby? If something touches and endangers the interests of you and your users, what bad is there in lobbying? What's a platform if you can't use it? – Magisch Jun 12 at 15:25
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    @Magisch: Or if they don't lobby themselves, they could support organisations that lobby for them like EDRi or EFF. – Martin Schröder Jun 14 at 8:43
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    @Magisch are we really going to scorn Tim for not taking a stance... after all the noise that Joel's stance-taking did? :P – John Dvorak Jun 15 at 8:48
  • @JohnDvorak Less that and more that I want to know the reasons ... if they feel like sharing. – Magisch Jun 15 at 8:53
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    I think a blog (+ maybe some twitter attention) might be a good idea. It's very different from that last political stand in the sense that it might directly affect Stack Exchange and all of its users, and it's more on-topic. And even that received massive amounts of upvotes, despite the controversy it sparked. I'm not sure spamming MEPs to death, like CC encourages us to do, is the right call to action, but spreading awareness is in my opinion. – Erik von Asmuth Jun 15 at 11:39
  • @ErikvonAsmuth the main recommendation is to use phone calls. Those often take only one minute and are more valuable for both sides. – Nemo Jun 16 at 14:24
  • You can: 1. Draw enough attention to the issue and ask community's thoughts. (Featured, blog) 2. Do not take any sides (that was pretty much the major flow in Take a Stand). 3. Ask what the community thinks should be done and explain which of the suggestions are viable (legally). EU copyright laws could have a direct impact on SE, unlike the previous political topics, so the backlash (if any) should be small. – Fermi paradox Jun 17 at 8:17
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    Update: The laws were approved. I read an article on what this means and it looks really bad. You might want to talk to your legal team again. (this won't affect only CC images, but links to articles as well; bringing to mind sites like politicsSE and SkepticsSE among others. And that doesn't even include the censoring powers the law gives to platforms, which might very well be the real reason this law was create.) – Fermi paradox Jun 21 at 5:46

Had to post as an answer, because too large for a comment.

Possible Restrictions

The problem being that if this law passes I/you might not be able to do the following in the future, because of "possible" copyright infringement:

1. Use a Title from Another Website

70+ Internet Luminaries Ring the Alarm on EU Copyright Filtering Proposal (EFF.org)

2. Link a Picture from a Different Site

EFF Copyright Filtering Proposal

3. Quote from Another Website

Vint Cerf, Tim Berners-Lee, and Dozens of Other Computing Experts Oppose Article 13

As Europe's latest copyright proposal heads to a critical vote on June 20-21, more than 70 Internet and computing luminaries have spoken out against a dangerous provision, Article 13, that would require Internet platforms to automatically filter uploaded content. The group, which includes Internet pioneer Vint Cerf, the inventor of the World Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, co-founder of the Mozilla Project Mitchell Baker, Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle, cryptography expert Bruce Schneier, and net neutrality expert Tim Wu, wrote in a joint letter that was released today:

By requiring Internet platforms to perform automatic filtering all of the content that their users upload, Article 13 takes 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 prospects for the elimination of Article 13 have continued to worsen...


Argumentation of those Opposing the Law

Some of those opposing this law argue that:

For those platforms that do establish upload filtering, users will find that their contributions—including video, audio, text, and even source code—will be monitored and potentially blocked if the automated system detects what it believes to be a copyright infringement. Inevitably, mistakes will happen. There is no way for an automated system to reliably determine when the use of a copyright work falls within a copyright limitation or exception under European law, such as quotation or parody.

This might result in being fined for hosting content that could possibly be copyrighted, even though the material was marked as such.

Whilst the opponents do agree that...

We support the consideration of measures that would improve the ability for creators to receive fair remuneration for the use of their works online.

...they argue that ...

But we cannot support Article 13, which would mandate Internet platforms to embed an automated infrastructure for monitoring and censorship deep into their networks. For the sake of the Internet’s future, we urge you to vote for the deletion of this proposal.


Expectation of the EFF

What began as a bad idea offered up to copyright lobbyists as a solution to an imaginary "value gap" has now become an outright crisis for future of the Internet as we know it. Indeed, if those who created and sustain the operation of the Internet recognize the scale of this threat, we should all be sitting up and taking notice.

Possible Expectations of OP and Me

Take a stance for the European User Base.

(all emphasis are mine)

Referenced Material / Creative Commons

All material used in this answer originated from the eff.org site and from the article 70+ Internet Luminaries Ring the Alarm on EU Copyright Filtering Proposal

Any and all original material on the EFF website may be freely distributed at will under the Creative Commons Attribution License, unless otherwise noted.

Boing Boing posted an article recently: Not just Europe: EU Copyright Directive will censor the world's internet

I don't know to what extent it's true. It appears to expect action at your end (i.e. you're required to comply with it -- perhaps to "implement" it somehow).

Some SE sites (perhaps unlike e.g. the programming sites) cite and quote references quite extensively -- presumably (i.e. I presume) under the cover of "fair use"; textual references though, fwiw, not video etc.

I don't know how fair use is affected, whether it's permitted and if so how.

I guess you may eventually want to update the ToS, and/or post a "What does this mean for you, and us?" kind of clarification for SE users.

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