Protestors took to the streets across many of the country’s major cities, including Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich on the weekend to protest the EU’s copyright reform which will be voted on in the European Parliament this week. The copyright reform is intended to modernise the EU’s current copyright law, bringing it up-to-date with the digital age. But opponents fear the changes could lead to broader censorship, limiting opinion and art freedom.
Demonstrations also took place in Poland, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Austria and Sweden.
Around 30,000 people gathered in Berlin ahead of the vote on Tuesday, according to the organisers, with police putting the numbers at more than 10,000.
The protestors took to the streets under the motto “save our internet”, in protest of the censorship that could occur under the copyright reform.
They argue article 13 of the bill, article 17 in the final version, will prompt high-earning platforms such as Google’s YouTube to use upload filters to block copyright-infringing videos, texts and images to avoid expensive lawsuits from copyright holders.
Protestor Christian, 53, said he feared this would lead to a “monopoly of opinion”, meaning that the big platforms are given sovereignty over what people are allowed to post and what they cannot post.
Article 13 requires platforms to prevent copyright infringements before they happen, which critics fear wold result in upload filters – technologies that evaluate content automatically, choosing to either unlock or block it.
But such systems are prone to errors, they cannot distinguish between a user video, a satire show or reporting.
Tobias Matzner, professor of media science at the University of Paderborn, told Zeit Online: “Providers like large publishers, film distributors, record labels or professional creators will have more resources available to make sure their content will escape the filters.”
Whereas an everyday user would find this more difficult, due to the high costs involved.
Google is even against the reform and supports the #SaveYourInternet campaign.
Other critics include German politician Julia Reda, organisations such as Chaos Computer Club and vlogger LeFloid, who was over 3million subscribers.
But those who demonstrated on Saturday did not appear to be completely averse to the proposed reform.
They chanted: “Yes to the EU, no to Article 13” and signs included statements such as “the idea is good, but articles 11 and 13 are mistakes”.
The vote will take place in the European Parliament on Tuesday.
If passed, member states will have two years to transpose the resulting EU legislation into national law.
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.