Software

Crowdfunding campaign launched to stop EU’s new copyright regulations

Read time 3min 40sec

Anyone in the open source community who thought they had won the war on censorship when the European Union backed down on a key aspect of its Copyright Directive earlier this year, is `making a mistake of the highest order’.

That’s the view of open source and Internet advocate, activist and author Glyn Moody – whose 2001 book `Rebel Code: Linux and the Open Source Revolution’ provides an early, authoritative history of the open source movement.

The global open source community was able to breathe a small sigh of relief when last-minute amendments were made to the European Union's (EU's) Copyright Directive, resulting in open source software development being left relatively, but not wholly, unscathed.

However, Moody believes that getting the open source platforms excluded from the Directive’s requirement to filter uploads was merely one battle in what promises to be a long war.

Crowdfunding

A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to help fund the legal battles that are likely to lie ahead, and over five million people have already signed up in protest at the EU’s action.

In an article in the respected open source publication Linux Journal, Moody stated: “It would be naive to assume that the Copyright Directive is now acceptable, and that free software will be unaffected (because) open source and the open Internet have a symbiotic relationship – each has fed constantly into the other. The upload filters are a direct attack on the open Internet (and) will create a censorship system…that is bound to be abused by companies and governments alike to block legitimate material.”

Moody is not alone. The day the regulations were approved, Julia Reda, a German representative in the European Parliament and fierce opponent of the copyright directive, tweeted that this was `a dark day for Internet freedom’.

The problem for open source

The main problem for the open source community is that the Directive requires any content-sharing platform to use filters to detect the uploading of unauthorised, copyright materials. While this is aimed at protecting the rights of musicians, film makers, writers and other artists, the algorithms that would be employed would undoubtedly catch legitimate uploads in the net, resulting in a lot of so-called `false positives’.

The upload filters are a direct attack on the open Internet (and) will create a censorship system…that is bound to be abused by companies and governments alike to block legitimate material.

Glyn Moody

At the time the Directive was passed,

Abby Vollmer, senior policy manager at GitHub, warned in a GitHub blog that despite the exemptions for open source: “When a filter catches a false positive and (open source software) dependencies disappear, this not only breaks projects – it cuts into software developers’ rights as copyright holders too.”

OSS community should take a stand

Moody is confident, however, that all is not lost.

He believes that if the loose alliance of digital rights NGOs, political parties and social media managed to invoke sufficient pressure to result in the concessions made around the open source platforms, it could be done again with sufficient support. There have already been protests and a petition calling for ‘stopping the censorship machinery’ and ‘saving the Internet’. The petition is linked to the crowdfunding campaign and is attracting signatures from around the world.

However, Moody believes the open source community could and should also take a stand. In addition to contributing financially to the battle, he has called on them to place pressure on their governments, each of which is required to enact the regulations via domestic legislation in their own countries.

And if all else fails, Moody suggests that the legislation can be bypassed by building a new and different type of Internet – one that would be so distributed, it would be far more difficult to control. The basics for this have already been built in the form of what is known as the FreedomBox. It just needs the open source community to help improve it.

“The FreedomBox initiative will move us closer to creating a more resilient global Internet that is censorship-resistant. It should become a priority for the open source community,” he concludes.

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