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YouTube, Twitch speak out against EU Copyright Directive

Websites express concern over what the Directive's Article 13 could mean for content creators on their platforms

Recently, both YouTube and Twitch have taken a public stance against the EU's pending Copyright Directive, an update to copyright law that's aimed at funneling money back to copyright holders for copyright infringement over the web but which opponents say will have a number of devastating consequences.

In a nutshell, the Copyright Directive is a major overhaul to the EU's copyright laws that attempts to modernize them in the wake of the technology boom. The most controversial aspect of it is Article 13, a section that effectively puts heavy legal liability on websites for any content that could infringe copyright.

That doesn't just include content the website owners put there, but also makes the sites liable for user-posted content that may infringe copyright, including things like text, sounds, music, or images. Sites would need to implement filters to catch copyrighted content and block it from appearing.

The #SaveYourInternet movement outlines the case against Article 13 in detail on its website. Already, websites such as YouTube (and, more recently, Tumblr) have attempted to filter out certain types of content automatically with the end result often being that users not breaking the rules are filtered out, blocked, or have their content removed accidentally. Effective version of this technology, they argue, is expensive and will result in smaller sites being penalized or unable to continue running at all without incurring heavy fines. Creators could see content arbitrarily blocked whether or not any copyrighted material was used, and content such as gaming streams or memes could find themselves on the wrong end of a filter.

Or, as Twitch put it in a letter to its creators:

"Because Article 13 makes Twitch liable for any potential copyright infringement activity with uploaded works, Twitch could be forced to impose filters and monitoring measures on all works uploaded by residents of the EU," the letter reads. "This means you would need to provide copyright ownership information, clearances, or take other steps to prove that you comply with thorny and complicated copyright laws. Creators would very likely have to contend with the false positives associated with such measures, and it would also limit what content we can make available to viewers in the EU.

"Operating under these constraints means that a variety of content would be much more difficult to publish, including commentary, criticism, fan works, and parodies. Communities and viewers everywhere would also suffer, with fewer viewer options for entertainment, critique, and more."

Twitch has urged EU citizens to reach out to their parliament members, sign a petition. Meanwhile, back in October, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki spoke similarly in an open letter to the company's creators:

"Article 13 as written threatens to shut down the ability of millions of people -- from creators like you to everyday users -- to upload content to platforms like YouTube," she said. "And it threatens to block users in the EU from viewing content that is already live on the channels of creators everywhere. This includes YouTube's incredible video library of educational content, such as language classes, physics tutorials and other how-to's."

Currently, the EU Copyright Directive as a whole has been approved, but is in Trilogue negotiations to discuss amendments, with another vote coming in early 2019 and a final vote expected by April of next year.

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