Opinion: We must save the internet from the EU’s copyright plan

PR professionals must act now to save the internet from the EU’s copyright directive, says Nicholas Dunn-McAfee, the PRCA’s head of public affairs, policy and research.


The internet is under attack. In its current form, the EU’s Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market has serious implications for two acts at the centre of internet usage: linking to pages and sharing images. This one piece of legislation could soon end the internet as we know it.

This is not a niche issue or an academic interest blown out of proportion. Article 11 – which would introduce a link tax – and Article 13 – mandating image upload filters – are not fit for purpose. As PR and communications practitioners, and people who deal in evidence-based policy, we must appreciate how radically they would change our everyday practices.

The proposed link tax would require online platforms (ranging from Twitter and Facebook to aggregation sites like Reddit) to pay for linking to, or quoting from, news and content.

While the EU’s intention is to support organisations which produce news, ultimately their current proposal will hamstring aggregating websites and applications and drastically reduce the public’s ability to engage properly with current affairs and entertainment on these platforms. This has the obvious unintended consequence of reducing sharing on social media, and threatens the very creation of new platforms by creating a significant barrier to market.

How social is social media if we prevent new, fresh platforms for being created and charge existing platforms for positively driving traffic to other websites?

At the same time, Article 13 would require websites to use upload monitoring software to check and censor content that may be subject to copyright. On the surface of it, this sounds reasonable. But the real consequences will effectively rig the internet against the everyday user.

Some have called this the ‘anti-meme law’. An algorithm cannot hope to tell genuine infringement apart from things like parody, quotation, reference and engagement. Technology simply hasn’t reached a level where censorship machines can reliably tell the difference between a PR and communications practitioner putting their own, satirical spin on a trending Twitter image for a light-hearted client and actual copyright infringement.

Having fought and won a major copyright case in the Court of Justice of the European Union, and as one of the long-term supporters of OpenMedia’s Save The Link campaign, the PRCA knows copyright disproportionately impacts our industry and that PR and communications practitioners need to understand (and act upon) the very clear risks to our industry.

So, act now to save your internet. Click here and email your MEP to let them know what you think of the EU’s proposed copyright plan – we need 376 MEPs to vote against the rubber-stamping of these plans on Thursday.

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