A misguided piece of legislation by the European Union (EU) intending to protect press freedom by apparently muzzling it continues to draw massive criticism and protests across Europe.
Over the weekend, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets across Germany to voice their displeasure over the EU Copyright Directive, otherwise known as the "Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market 2016/0280(COD)." This proposed European Union directive is designed to limit how copyrighted content is shared on online platforms.
Slated to be approved by the European Parliament by March 29, this EU directive intends to ensure "a well-functioning marketplace for the exploitation of works and other subject-matter... taking into account in particular digital and cross-border uses of protected content".
Critics of the EU Copyright Directive fear the law might lead to online censorship and limit free speech. They are incensed over Article 11 and Article 13. They fear the former might be used to inhibit online expression by requiring websites to obtain licenses in order to link to news articles.
Article 11 will also give news publications the ability to negotiate commercial licenses with platforms like Google News before posting their articles. Tech companies such as Google and Twitter have lobbied aggressively against the law, arguing it will hurt smaller online publishers and limit freedom of information online.
Tech firms, however, are more agitated over Article 13, which will require online platforms to filter or remove copyrighted material from their websites. This article might also be interpreted as requiring platforms to ban memes.
On the other hand, proponents claim the directive will modernize copyright rules for the digital era, and level the playing field for artists, publishers and news outlets. They also say the directive will impose limitations on big tech companies that distribute content.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the directive ensures journalists, publishers and authors will be "paid fairly for their work."
The European Council describes the key goals of the EU Copyright Directive as protecting press publications, reducing the "value gap" between profits made by Internet platforms and content creators, encouraging "collaboration" between both groups, and creating copyright exceptions for text and data mining.
On the other hand, the International Federation of Journalists hammered the directive as "bad for journalism." David Kaye, the United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, warns the directive might harm freedom of expression across Europe.
More than five million people have signed a petition against the law on Change.org, arguing it places the freedom of the internet in "danger."
Another thorny proposal in the directive requires platforms like YouTube to remove illegal content with automatic filters. Critics claim these filters are a form of censorship and will inhibit free speech and give tech companies too much control over content.
"Companies that act reasonably in helping rights holders identify and control the use of their content shouldn't be held liable for anything a user uploads, any more than a telephone company should be liable for the content of conversations," argues Kent Walker Google's Senior Vice President of global affairs.
This article originally appeared in IBTimes US.