EU wants to require platforms to filter uploaded content (including code)

$ git push 
...
remote: Resolving deltas: 100% (2/2), completed with 2 local objects.
remote: error: GH013: Your push could infringe someone's copyright.
remote: If you believe this is a false positive (e.g., it's yours, open
remote: source, not copyrightable, subject to exceptions) contact us:
remote: https://github.com/contact
remote: We're sorry for interrupting your work, but automated copyright
remote: filters are mandated by the EU's Article 13.
To github.com/vollmera/atom.git
 ! [remote rejected] patch-1 -> patch-1 (push declined due to article 13 filters)

The EU is considering a copyright proposal that would require code-sharing platforms to monitor all content that users upload for potential copyright infringement (see the EU Commission’s proposed Article 13 of the Copyright Directive). The proposal is aimed at music and videos on streaming platforms, based on a theory of a “value gap” between the profits those platforms make from uploaded works and what copyright holders of some uploaded works receive. However, the way it’s written captures many other types of content, including code.

We’d like to make sure developers in the EU who understand that automated filtering of code would make software less reliable and more expensive—and can explain this to EU policymakers—participate in the conversation.

Why you should care about upload filters

Upload filters (“censorship machines”) are one of the most controversial elements of the copyright proposal, raising a number of concerns, including:

  • Privacy: Upload filters are a form of surveillance, effectively a “general monitoring obligation” prohibited by EU law
  • Free speech: Requiring platforms to monitor content contradicts intermediary liability protections in EU law and creates incentives to remove content
  • Ineffectiveness: Content detection tools are flawed (generate false positives, don’t fit all kinds of content) and overly burdensome, especially for small and medium-sized businesses that might not be able to afford them or the resulting litigation

Upload filters are especially concerning for software developers given that:

  • Software developers create copyrightable works—their code—and those who choose an open source license want to allow that code to be shared
  • False positives (and negatives) are especially likely for software code because code often has many contributors and layers, often with different licensing for different components
  • Requiring code-hosting platforms to scan and automatically remove content could drastically impact software developers when their dependencies are removed due to false positives

The EU Parliament continues to introduce new proposals for Article 13 but these issues remain. MEP Julia Reda explains further in a recent proposal from Parliament.

EU policymakers want and need to hear from developers

As part of our ongoing collaboration with others affected, GitHub will help represent developers at an upcoming breakfast in Parliament on Tuesday, March 20, intended to show the human impact of this copyright proposal.

EU policymakers have told us it would be very useful to hear directly from more developers. In particular, developers at European companies can make a significant impact.

How to reach EU policymakers

  1. Write to EU policymakers (MEPs, Council Members, or Commissioners) and ask them to exclude “software repositories” from Article 13. Please explain how important the ability to freely share code is for software developers and how important open source software is to the software industry and the EU economy

  2. Explain this :point_up: in person to EU policymakers

GitHub can help connect you with policymakers, provide additional background, or chat if you might be interested in representing software developers in defending your ability to share code and not have your builds break. Get in touch!

Have feedback on this post? Let @github know on Twitter.
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