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Scientists, free software bods still worried about EU copyright proposals

An upload filter would break GitHub builds, warn FSFE, OpenForum Europe

By Richard Chirgwin, 11 Sep 2017

European digital rights groups and open science advocates are mobilising against proposed EU copyright changes they say would hamper information sharing.

At issue is a proposal, which first landed last year, to stop people uploading copyrighted material by applying a YouTube-like filter against content fingerprints.

That proposal fell out of the headlines, giving way to discussions of a “link tax” opposed so strongly by outfits like Google and Facebook that it was watered down to at least letting publishers demand permission for aggregation (or if it's not forthcoming, demand payment or takedown).

It now appears that the “upload filter” hasn't hasn't died. Statewatch is carrying a leaked document (PDF here) it says shows Estonia (currently holding the EU presidency) is pushing hard for the upload filter.

It's contained in Article 13 of the copyright directive; the extra rights for publishers are in Article 11.

That's led the Free Software Foundation Europe and Open Forum Europe to put together a position paper opposing the idea under what they've dubbed the Save Code Share initiative.

The groups argue that the upload filter endangers the free software community.

Their paper (published here) says the filter is likely to raise false positives, and that this would be a disaster for people who collaborate on platforms like GitHub.

"'False positive' identifications of infringing software … could cause developers’ dependencies randomly to disappear and so literally “break” their builds, resulting in lost business, lost productivity, less reliable software, and less resilient infrastructure,” the paper suggests.

"The filter would also intrude on developers' privacy, their freedom of expression and access to information, and undermine the presumption of innocence by treating “every user of the platform as a potential copyright infringer”.

The American University's InfoJustice.org is warning against similar impacts on science, a field similarly fearful of false filter positives.

Moreover, that post points out that there are 1,250 repositories sharing scientific data within Europe, and by being over-protective of publishers the proposal would hinder that information-sharing. ®

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