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Open source community worried about Copyright Directive

Published on: 03/12/2017
Last update: 09/01/2018

This week, more than 80 organisations involved in open source software wrote an open letter to the Council of the EU and the European Commission expressing their concerns on the new Copyright Directive as it is currently proposed. According to the signatories, Article 13 in particular will cause irreparable damage to their fundamental rights and freedoms, their economy and competitiveness, their education and research, their innovation and competition, their creativity and their culture.

Article 13 obliges Internet service providers that store and provide public access to large amounts of works or other subject matter uploaded by their users to ensure the functioning of agreements concluded with rightholders. Where such agreements do not apply, service providers must prevent the availability of the rightholders' intellectual property on the service. To that purpose, service providers should cooperate with rightholders and implement measures such as the use of effective content recognition technologies.

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The obligation to monitor and install arbitrary upload filters on every code hosting and sharing portal to prevent any possible copyright infringement will hamper the ability to collaborate online, Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) says in its news statement on joining this initiative.

Two months ago, FSFE and OpenForum Europe (OFE) jointly published the white paper 'European Copyright Reform; Impact on Free and Open Source Software and Developer Communities'. According to the authors, collaborative software development platforms, software repositories, knowledge bases and preservation projects such as GitHub, GitLab, SourceForge, GNU Savannah, Stack Overflow and Software Heritage clearly fall under the definition of such service providers, and will have to comply.

Under the current proposal, software platforms would no longer be able to operate as they do today and software developers' ability to share source code and collaborate in its development would be hampered, the authors conclude. Article 13 as currently proposed shifts the responsibility for protecting allegedly infringed rights from rightholders to platforms. This could harm a sector fundamental for the Digital Single Market.