Germany confirms: article 13 would lead to upload filters

The case that article 13 EU copyright reform proposal will not lead to internet upload filters, has crumbled, now that the German government acknowledges that article 13 would lead to such filters.

Proponents of article 13 have claimed that alternatives to upload filters exist which will ensure that copyright protected works are not available on internet platforms. However, in discussions proponents have only mentioned manual filtering as an alternative. This didn’t convince, due to the massive amounts of uploads to filter.

In an article major German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) reports, under the title Bundesregierung rechnet mit ‘Uploadfiltern’ that the German government admits upload filters are likely to be needed. The newspaper mentions that Christian Lange, Parliamentary State Secretary to the German Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection, wrote in answer to a parliamentary question:

“In the [German] federal government’s view it appears likely that algorithmic measures will have to be taken in connection with large volumes of data for practical reasons alone.” (Translation Florian Mueller, see his blog.)

The German government acknowledges what everyone sees as unavoidable in case of large volumes of uploads. The “algorithmic measures” are known as upload filters.

Glyn Moody argues:

“It is now inarguable that Article 13 will require the deployment of upload filters across many sites in the EU. The UN Special Rapporteur David Kaye has warned that upload filters put freedom of expression under threat, and harm creators and artists the most. Putting those two together means that any European politician supporting Article 13 is inevitably attacking a fundamental human right in the EU, and making life worse for artists.”

And even Axel Voss, European Parliament rapporteur for the copyright reform proposal, now admits the text would lead to upload filters. In an article, under the title “Memes could be filtered out by EU copyright law”, DW quotes Axel Voss:

“If you have a massive platform like YouTube you will have to use a technological solution.”

Axel Voss, finally, acknowledges that a technological solution would be needed. This technological solution is known as an upload filter.

You may like to inform your Member of the European Parliament (MEP).

Who voted in favour of article 13 – upload filters – in September 2018? See here. Who already pledged to vote against article 13 in the next vote? See Pledge2019. You can use Pledge2019 to contact your MEP.

A new website, EU Copyright Framework, with a Q&A (“Where can I find the European Parliament procedure file?”, etc) and a detailed analysis of articles 11 and 13 may come in handy. Disclaimer: I’m involved in the project.

Below are some more recent expert statements on article 13, they all regard the latest version of the text (to be voted on by the European Parliament on 26 March 2019).

Five member states voted against the proposal in the EU council. They do not mention upload filters, but note that the proposal “may encroach upon EU citizens’ rights”. (February 2019)

The German Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, Ulrich Kelber:

“Above all, the use of so-called upload filters presents a threat of a few large providers of such technology gathering even more data concerning the users of many Internet platforms and services.” (February 2019; Florian Mueller’s officially approved translation)

David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression:

“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.” (March 2019)

Professor of Intellectual Property Law Martin Kretschmer stated:

“Big politics has entered the copyright negotiations. There was a direct phone call between Macron and Merkel, and Merkel as German chancellor with so-called ‘Richtlinienkompetenz’ (authority for overall direction of policy) has overruled the position against upload filters that was agreed in her coalition agreement with the social democrats.” (February 2019)

Steffen Holly, who sells content filter technology, stated:

“Down to business and first of all: No, the wording ‘content filter’ is not used in article 13 for the enforcement of the planed copyright law, but to analyse millions of media files or user contributions per day to check violation or conformity one need recognition technology, which has to be linked with rule sets automatically.” (March 2019)

Joe Karaganis, vice president at The American Assembly, a public policy institute at Columbia University, stated:

“Sometime in March or April, the European Parliament will vote on a set of major changes to European copyright law, including the creation of taxes on links and mandatory filtering for websites with user-submitted content.” (March 2019)

These statements by governments, officials, and experts, unsurprisingly, validate civil society organisations’ analysis by for instance Communia, EDRi, and EFF.