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EU Votes Down 'Disastrous' Copyright Proposal Aimed at Transforming Internet Into Virtual 'Censorship Machine'

"The European Parliament has sent the copyright law back to the drawing board...Now let's keep up the pressure to make sure we Save Your Internet!"

The European Parliament voted against a new copyright law which critics say would create a "censorship machine," controlling what users can say and share on the internet. (Photo: The Verge)

Digital rights activists on Thursday applauded the European Parliament's rejection of a broad new copyright law proposal which critics warned would threaten the open internet and result in widespread censorship and control of users.

"Great success: Your protests have worked!" wrote German Member of European Parliament (MEP) Julia Reda, a member of the Pirate Party Germany, told supporters on Twitter. "The European Parliament has sent the copyright law back to the drawing board. All MEPs will get to vote on upload filters and the link tax September 10–13. Now let's keep up the pressure to make sure we Save Your Internet!"

The Copyright Directive was voted down by lawmakers, with 318 opposing the measure and 278 supporting it. The proposal contained two rules that were especially worrisome to internet companies and open internet defenders—Article 11 and Article 13.

The former sought to require websites like Facebook and Google—as well as smaller, far less wealthy and powerful websites—to pay news organizations in order to link to their content, a rule critics have derided as a "link tax."

Article 13 would implement a so-called "upload filter"—or what opponents have called a censorship machine—to screen all material uploaded to the internet for copyright infringement.

Article 13 would have dire implications for all internet users, argue critics—from people who create and share viral memes to start-ups which rely on user-generated content and aim to compete with large platforms like YouTube, to websites like Wikipedia which rely on community members uploading content.

"This [law] will lead to excessive filtering and deletion of content and limit the freedom to impart information on the one hand, and the freedom to receive information on the other," wrote 57 rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders, last year in an open letter to EU legislators.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Whales has called the Copyright Directive "disastrous," while the website's Italian platform shut down on Tuesday in protest of the proposal.

"Wikipedia itself would be at risk of closing," should the directive pass, wrote the site's editors. "If the proposal is approved, it may be impossible to share a newspaper article on social networks or find it on a search engine."

"The broad scope of Article 13 could have covered any copyrightable material, including images, audio, video, compiled software, code and the written word," wrote James Temperton at Wired after the measure was voted down.

The European Parliament will take up debate on the directive again in September.

"MEPs will now soon go on 'summer break' until the end of August. We will need to continue to encourage them do the right thing and to push back against an Article 13," wrote the #SaveYourInternet campaign.

Reda posted a video on social media urging supporters to continue pressuring their representatives to oppose the Articles 11 and 13.

"The fight is far from over," Reda said. "What we have achieved today as that the entire Parliament will have a debate in September and will vote on changes to this copyright reform. So we must be vigilant. We cannot stop the public pressure now."

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