A document leaked at the end of August reveal that Estonia — currently holding the EU Presidency — is pushing fellow member states to adopt more intrusive Internet content filtering rules, similar to the ones implemented in China.
These Internet restrictions are part of a proposal to reform the EU’s Copyright Directive, under discussion for several years.
Previous proposals have appalled Europeans in the past, as at one point the EU was seriously considering approving a “link tax” that would have forced website owners to pay a small fee for every link they included on their site that led back to copyrighted content, such as news articles.
That proposal was backed by giant media conglomerates, was considered an obvious cash-grab, and was knocked down after more than 135,000 spoke out in protest.
An initial version of the Link Tax was voted down in July 2015, along with two other pieces of extremely controversial legislation that would have voided the Creative Commons license (by removing the right to release content for free, or into the public domain), and destroyed Freedom of Panorama (the right to take a personal photo in front of a copyrighted item without having to pay licensing fees).
While many believed the Copyright Directive reform efforts would settle on a normal path and cooler heads would prevail, it was not to be, as a new version of the "link tax" was proposed just a few months after, with very small ammendments. Lobbying from copyright holders is now pushing the copyright law reform on a path few thought it would go.
According to a document leaked by Statewatch, Estonia is putting real muscle behind a proposal that would force websites that allow users to upload content online to install "upload filters" to scan the user's content against known copyrighted works.
The "upload filter" measure was first proposed last year and aims to prevent users from uploading copyrighted content in the first place.
The main problem with the "upload filter" proposal is that the measure is extremely intrusive, as websites would have to scan all of the user's uploads, even when the user is uploading personal data online.
Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, and the Netherlands have already raised concerns about how an upload filter would violate fundamental human rights to free expression and protection of personal data.
Privacy groups such as European Digital Rights (EDRi) and OpenMedia have also raised the problem of cost, as such upload filtering technology wouldn't be cheap. Small businesses that cannot afford the technology would automatically break the law and would be subject to legal threats or risk going out of business.
Further, Estonia also proposed an alternative measure in case the "upload filter" proposal failed, asking that website owners should be held liable for the content users upload online.
EU officials will discuss these proposals at the meeting of the Working Party on Intellectual Property (Copyright) on September 11 and 12. If cooler heads don't prevail, expect another social campaign similar to "Save The Link" campaign that took place in 2015.