What’s next for the EU copyright proposal?

Last week, we put out a call to action leading up to the EU Parliament’s vote on the Copyright Directive. Read on to learn what they decided, how this affects software, and what’s next in the process. (It’s not over.)

What Parliament decided

On September 12, the EU Parliament voted to:

  • Make content-sharing platforms directly liable for copyrighted content that users upload, which could lead to use of upload filters (Article 13)
  • Exclude “open source software developing platforms” from that liability and need for upload filters (Article 2)
  • Allow an exception for text and data mining only by research institutions for scientific purposes on a “non-for-profit” basis, with only an “optional” exception for others (Article 3)
  • Create a new right for press publishers to require a license to use content of news articles except for “mere hyperlinks, which are accompanied by individual words” (Article 11)

What this means for software

If Parliament’s version of the Copyright Directive becomes the law:

  • Sites that host user-generated content may need to filter content that users upload, but “open source software developing platforms” (like GitHub) wouldn’t need to. We supported a broader exclusion for software development platforms, archives, and repositories, as it would have protected more of the software development community. However, Parliament adopted the narrower language. Since elements of software development happen beyond that narrow exclusion, developers would need to consider whether they might be subject to liability for the content they host and resort to measures like filtering.
  • Developers may need licenses to mine content—including for artificial intelligence and machine learning—unless individual EU countries decide to adopt an exception from text and data mining that would cover them. Without a mandatory broader exception, developers would be subject to a patchwork of regulations across different EU countries.
  • Developers who link to news articles may need to pay to use content like article headlines or snippets. It may take a judge to interpret what the phrase “individual words” means exactly in the hyperlinks press exception we called out above. In the meantime, developers would need to be careful about what content they include to describe links.

But remember, Parliament doesn’t have the final word. We still need to keep an eye on the negotiations as they move to the next stage with the Council and Commission—and continue advocating to protect software.

What we can do next

There’s a lot to fix in the current copyright proposal. We’re looking at software because that’s where developers can speak with authority. Our focus now is on the negotiations among Parliament, Council, and the Commission (trilogues) to ensure exclusion for “open source software developing platforms” isn’t only limited to “non-for-profit” platforms. This was our goal back in April too, when both Council and Parliament proposed excluding only “non-for-profit open source software developing platforms.” With your help, we were able to show Parliament why a non-for-profit limitation would undermine their effort to protect software because most open source software development is built on platforms, like GitHub, that aren’t non-for-profit.

Now it’s time to make this clear for the Council. After hearing from developers, Parliament realized it didn’t make sense to limit the software exclusion to only non-for-profit software development platforms. We need to make sure the Council understands this, too. EU developers, contact your Council members and explain why they need to exclude all open source software development platforms from filtering obligations—not only non-for-profit ones—if they want to effectively protect software development in the EU.

Copyright law hasn’t kept up with the digital age, and we support greater copyright reform that protects how software development happens around the world today. But as we’re fixing copyright law, it’s important to make sure that we aren’t actually creating more problems. Although the Copyright Directive may be a step forward, we have to continue advocating for fair and balanced change that protects software—and the economy it powers—in the process.

How developers can defend open source from the EU copyright proposal

On September 12 the European Parliament will vote on amendments to the EU Copyright Directive, which will greatly impact the future of open source, European competitiveness, and software development in general. We urge you in the EU to contact your Members of European Parliament (MEPs) to tell them how important open source is to all software development and to the EU. Check out our previous post for background and talking points.

Read on for details on the implications for software and society, key amendments being voted on, and how you can make a difference.

On September 5, we hosted HackerOne, Wikimedia, Reddit, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) at our San Francisco office for the event How developers can defend open source from the EU copyright proposal, addressing the many EU developers working in the Bay Area.

We kicked off the event with our own Julio Avalos giving a big-picture look at where this proposal fits into the tech policy landscape. We explained that the copyright proposal would affect developers by requiring upload filters (Article 13), imposing a “link tax” (Article 11), and leaving text and data mining restricted (Article 3). Mårten Mickos, CEO of HackerOne, emphasized the proposal’s impacts on open source software for HackerOne and in the EU. Then, we moderated a panel with Wikimedia Foundation’s Senior Public Policy Manager, Jan Gerlach, Reddit’s Director of Policy, Jessica Ashooh, and EFF’s International Director, Danny O’Brien covering their communities’ involvement in advocacy and their thoughts on future implications of the proposal.

For example, recognizing that copyright law in many ways hasn’t kept up with the digital age, Wikimedia identified priorities for copyright reform, including protecting the public domain and freedom of panorama, as well as allowing sufficiently broad exceptions to copyright for user-generated content and for text and data mining. Learn more on their Fix Copyright landing page.

Our call to action at the event was the same as it is here: Developers, tell your MEPs to protect software.

What Parliament will decide on September 12

So what exactly is Parliament voting on? The September 12 vote is not a simple yes or no—it’s actually quite complex. MEPs will vote on a number of amendments to the full directive that the EU Commission proposed two years ago. From the perspective of protecting software development, we offered our thoughts on what developers could tell MEPs that might be useful.

Details about key amendments MEPs will consider:

For an open internet

  • The IMCO/LIBE committee amendments are most effective in promoting openness by focusing on active platforms and only requiring licensing agreements, not upload filters.
  • The latest European People’s Party (EPP) (MEP Voss) amendments no longer talk about “measures” (which, in previous drafts, meant upload filters) but would still require filters unless platforms obtain licenses for copyrighted content.

For software development

  • Article 13 (based on Article 2’s definition of what is in scope)
    • MEP Schaake’s amendments are the most protective of software development by more narrowly defining who is in scope for Article 13 (platforms where people upload music or video) and more broadly excluding software (archives and repositories, along with open source software development platforms).
    • The JURI Committee, ALDE party and latest EPP amendments all contain the same exclusion for “open source software developing platforms.”
  • Article 3
    • Both the IMCO/LIBE and Schaake amendments benefit developers by creating exceptions for text and data mining (TDM) wherever the beneficiary has lawful access (rather than only for research organizations conducting TDM on a not-for-profit basis).
  • Article 11
    • The IMCO/LIBE amendments also protect developers by prohibiting a link tax (meaning a press publisher cannot require a license to use a link needed to identify or request a source’s contents). They also give press publishers named in a publication the ability to conclude licensing agreements, rather than granting them rights by default.

While there’s a lot to be concerned about in the Copyright Directive, it’s important to recognize the need for positive copyright reform that reflects the digital world developers are creating. Some amendments reflect this reality, like articles on freedom of panorama and exclusion of user-generated content, which are in the IMCO/LIBE and Schaake amendments.

There’s still time to contact your MEPs before they vote on Wednesday! Developers have an important role to play in explaining how software works and what’s at stake. Contact us if you need more information about the EU Copyright Directive.

Shape the debate on the EU copyright proposal

Help shape the debate on the EU copyright proposal

The last time we wrote about an EU copyright proposal affecting software development, we explained that policymakers in Brussels responded when you took action. We’re fast approaching another vote on that proposal in the EU Parliament.

Here’s an update on the status of the negotiations, along with some ideas of how you can help Members of European Parliament (MEPs) understand why and how to protect software development. Activism by people concerned about the copyright proposal is part of why it hasn’t passed yet, so keep reading to learn how you can help shape the debate.

What is this (again)

The EU’s copyright proposal has the potential to impact the way we develop software. There’s still time to make our stance heard on several key issues of the proposal before it becomes law:

  • Upload filters (Article 13): Automated filtering of code would make software less reliable and more expensive. Upload filters pose larger concerns—like censorship, free speech, privacy, and ineffectiveness—and are problematic for all kinds of content, including software code.

  • Text and data mining (Article 3): The copyright exception for text and data mining in the EU is too narrow, because it only applies to research organizations for scientific purposes on a not-for-profit basis. It would undermine the EU’s efforts on AI and machine learning, as well as software development in the EU that depends on AI and machine learning.

  • New right (ancillary copyright) for press publishers (Article 11): Requiring a license to post snippets of text that describe links would add overhead to anyone developing software for the web. It would also run counter to copyright exceptions that allow copying for certain purposes, like commenting on a copyrighted work.

We’re focusing on software because that’s where GitHub and software developers can speak with authority.

Status of the negotiations

You may have heard that Parliament “rejected the copyright proposal” on July 5. Actually, Parliament voted against one of its committee’s proposals, but it didn’t permanently reject it. Instead, they voted to open the negotiations to all 751 MEPs, rather than primarily one committee.

That said, the rejection was significant because MEPs used a rare procedure to challenge the committee’s decision, and public advocacy against the proposal contributed to that.

What happens now

Parliament will vote on September 12 based on amendments received by September 5. This time, it will be the full Parliament—with more than 700 additional MEPs potentially voting than when the committee voted on the proposal. And while they’re restarting negotiations, they’re not starting over completely. They’ll vote on amendments to the Commission’s initial proposal, which is the one that kicked off the idea of upload filters in the first place.

Whatever happens in Parliament, it’s important to keep in mind that there are three institutions involved in lawmaking in the EU: Commission, Council, and Parliament. If Parliament adopts a version of the proposal, it will enter into negotiations—or trilogues—with the Commission (based on its original proposal) and Council (based on its negotiating mandate).

But for now, all eyes are on Parliament to see what it might adopt.

What you can do

Leading up to Parliament’s vote, a Copyright Week of Action is happening September 4-11. Each day in that week is dedicated to a different constituency. September 5 is for developers and open source software.

Because so many developers from the EU work in the San Francisco Bay Area, we’re hosting an event at our headquarters in San Francisco on that day for EU developers to encourage them to contact their MEPs and encourage developers back home to do the same.

What to tell MEPs

Many MEPs aren’t familiar with software development or how this proposal can affect it. Developers are in an excellent position to explain to MEPs how essential open source software is to software development overall and to the countless sites, apps, and programs people rely on and enjoy.

It can be a lot to take in, so here are a few things you can share with your MEP to get started:

  • Software developers are creators, too: Code is copyrightable and developers who choose an open source license want to allow that code to be shared.
  • Filters are ineffective for software code: False positives (and negatives) are especially likely because of many contributors and layers, often with different licensing for different components.
  • Requiring filters that scan and automatically remove content could drastically impact software developers when their dependencies are removed due to false positives.
  • The upload filters requirement is overly broad because it applies to many platforms (like code-sharing platforms) that have nothing to do with the problem policymakers are trying to solve.
  • Upload filters will harm software development, which is significant to the EU economy.
  • Text and data mining (TDM) is critical to AI and machine learning, and restricting TDM to narrow circumstances like non-profit and scientific research would undermine the future of software development in the EU, including the EU’s own efforts to promote AI.

Ready to take action? Contact your MEPs and tell them to protect software development by:

  • Opposing upload filters (censorship machines) in Article 13
  • Including software development platforms under the exceptions in Article 2, which defines the services within Article 13’s scope
  • Opposing text and data mining restrictions in Article 3 if the exceptions remain only for research institutions for scientific purposes on a not-for-profit basis

If you aren’t a citizen of the EU, there are still ways to get involved and speak out for the developer community. Public advocacy has already shaped Parliament’s response, so share your thoughts on the copyright proposal on social media, raise awareness in your community and circles, and stay tuned to what happens next.

GitHub anti-bribery and events policies now open source

As a company that takes our commitment to social responsibility seriously, we’ve created and open sourced policies for others to adapt and use. We’re excited to announce that we’ve added four new policies to the collection.

Anti-bribery policies

The Anti-Bribery Statement and Gifts and Entertainment Policy are policies related to bribery. We designed these policies to promote compliance with anti-bribery laws, including the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the UK Bribery Act.

Beyond our policy commitment to prohibiting bribery, the statement describes the concrete actions we take to back up our words. A key element of ensuring our employees know how to avoid bribery is education. We now provide anti-bribery training to all employees, with additional training for particularly relevant people and teams, like the sales team. We also now require our channel partners and vendors to comply with our anti-bribery statement.

In describing our anti-bribery policies, we note our Code of Ethics, Standards of Conduct, and Gifts and Entertainment Policy. We decided to open source a separate policy on gifts and entertainment to provide more detail on the activities with the highest risk of potential bribery. We include examples of what’s acceptable and what’s unacceptable, explain consequences for violations, and link to the DOJ and SEC’s Resource Guide on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Events policies

With GitHub’s annual Universe conference coming up, we realized it was a great time to update and open source our Event Terms and Event Code of Conduct. Both policies aim to create an inclusive, inviting, engaging, and safe place for people to learn and participate.

The code of conduct sets expectations for event speakers, attendees, exhibitors, organizers, and volunteers to show each other respect and courtesy. We make it clear that we are dedicated to providing a positive and harassment-free event experience for everyone—regardless of age, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, personal appearance, body size, ethnicity, race, religion, nationality, or level of experience—and that we do not tolerate harassment of event participants in any form. We provide examples of acceptable and unacceptable behavior and contact information for reporting incidents. The terms provide more of the legalese, including basic requirements to attend (like agreeing to the code of conduct).

We hope our policies will help our users who may lack time or other resources to craft policies by providing a starting point and basis for them to contribute to best practices against bribery and corruption. We welcome you to adapt and reuse these policies.

Check out GitHub’s open source policies

Net neutrality news from India and the US, and how developers can help

Since we last wrote about net neutrality, we’ve seen efforts to step up protections for an open internet in the US and India (some more promising than others). We’ll start with the most encouraging updates, and we’ll also revisit a great resource for developers who want to help policymakers understand the need to save net neutrality.

Strong support for net neutrality in India

India recently adopted what might be the world’s strongest net neutrality norms. On July 11, India’s Telecom Commission approved recommendations the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) proposed last November to incorporate principles of non-discriminatory treatment into internet service provider license agreements. Those rules define discriminatory treatment to include “any form” of data discrimination, such as “blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds or treatment to any content,” as well as zero rating. India’s rules do allow exceptions, including for “reasonable traffic management” and “specialised services” (such as emergency services), but only where “proportionate, transient and transparent in nature” and not when provided a replacement for internet access services.

The Congressional Review Act and proposed net neutrality legislation in the US

Meanwhile, in the US, the call for net neutrality is regaining momentum in California, and possibly in Congress.

In California, Scott Wiener’s state senate bill SB 822 almost lost its promise as the US’s strongest net neutrality protections. After initial success in committee, SB 822 merged with another bill, and then was gutted. Fortunately, after much negotiation, Scott Wiener announced it will be reinstated with essentially all of its key elements. The revived bill is due out August 6, after legislative recess. Be sure to look out for that, along with opportunities to defend and protect it as it progresses through the legislative process.

At the federal level, on July 17 Representative Mike Coffman of Colorado became the first Republican sign the Congressional Review Act (CRA) discharge petition to undo the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality rules.

On the same day, Representative Coffman introduced his own net neutrality bill, the 21st Century Internet Act, which principally embraces the tenets of the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order with the significant exception of creating a new title for broadband internet access services. (The 2015 Open Internet Order classifies broadband under Title II of the Federal Communications Act, corresponding to common carrier-level regulation. In repealing that order, the FCC re-classified broadband under Title I: “light-touch regulation.” Coffman’s bill chooses neither and creates a new title instead.) Proponents of the CRA bill hope that Coffman’s bill will not detract from support for the CRA bill, and that Coffman’s signing of the CRA discharge petition will spur other Republicans to put their weight behind the CRA too.

How you can contribute

Developers have an important message to relay. Net neutrality has led to vast opportunity by giving developers the freedom to build and ship software without being potentially blocked, throttled, or tolled by internet service providers. This has meant a more level playing field for launching new products. Without net neutrality protections, we lose trust that the internet is a force for innovation and opportunity.

If you want more detail, check out these comments a group of 190 internet pioneers, technologists, and developers filed with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Although they’re a year old, the explanations are still relevant and can be a great resource in explaining the ramifications of the FCC’s decision for software to policymakers who may not understand it.

Not mincing words, they explain that the authors of the FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality rules “lack a fundamental understanding” of what the internet’s technology promises to provide, how the internet actually works, which entities in the internet ecosystem provide which services, and what the similarities and differences are between the internet and other telecommunications systems the FCC regulates as telecommunications services.

They also describe risks to innovation that could follow from reclassification of broadband services and give concrete examples of consumer harm that could have been prevented when broadband services were less regulated (before net neutrality) and consumer benefit realized when they were more regulated (during net neutrality).

Feeling inspired? We hope you’ll join us in continuing to advocate for an open internet.




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