Don’t ‘break the internet’

MEPs will today vote on new copyright rules which could ‘break the internet’ and harm quality journalism.

Catherine Stihler, Labour MEP for Scotland and vice-chair of the European Parliament’s internal market committee, has urged colleagues to reject the plans and vote to protect Scottish journalists and web users.

The vote will be taken by the legal affairs committee and if passed will proceed to a full vote of MEPs.

The proposed overhaul of EU copyright law would give global press publishers more control over the digital use of their content, which could dramatically reduce the number of articles on online news services such as Google News and Twitter.

When a similar crackdown was introduced in Spain, Google News largely withdrew from the marketplace and traffic to websites of small and medium sized publishers fell by up to 30 per cent – impacting on local journalists who do not see the extra profit made by publishers.

Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are also likely to carry fewer links to the quality press, allowing ‘fake news’ to become more dominant.

The directive would also force internet platforms such as YouTube and Facebook to introduce tough restrictions on users uploading material such as memes or GIFs. Sites would be forced to install technology to automatically recognise and block pieces of work which it believes belong to someone other than the person sharing it.

Other popular activities such as listening to music remixes online or sharing videos of people singing at karaoke could also be removed from the web, as the technology would filter out material it thinks infringes copyright rules.

After Brexit, companies such as Google and Twitter will still be required to conform to the legislation so that they can operate across the continent, and EU copyright rules will become the standard for all platforms which are available in any EU country.

Catherine Stihler said:

“After a long-running debate about copyright, this is finally coming to a vote and I urge MEPs to reject this overzealous proposal which could break the internet.
“The way we read news has changed dramatically, and I want to protect journalists in Scotland and the UK and prevent the spread of fake news on sites like Twitter and Facebook. This new directive could decrease traffic to websites for quality media outlets, and harm journalism.
“The crackdown on memes and other online material could stifle creative talent, meaning artists, musicians, and writers who upload content might find it is deleted without their consent.
“This proves just how short-sighted Brexit is. While we’re still part of the EU, UK MEPs have a seat at the top table where these vital decisions are made – but once we leave we’ll be powerless.”