The EU’s proposed Internet copyright filter has not proven popular with digital rights groups. The Internet copyright filter provision, detailed in Article 13 of the Digital Single Market proposals, would require the Internet to be policed to prevent the online publication of copyrighted content.

At present, if an individual decides to share content online and that material is protected by copyright, the holder of the copyright can submit a request to have the material taken down. The process can take some time before the material is removed, during which time the information can be viewed and potentially downloaded.

The proposed Internet copyright filter would improve protections for copyright holders. Online service providers such as Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, YouTube, and Dropbox would be required to constantly scan uploaded content to check the material is not protected by copyright. If it is, the content would need to be removed immediately.

The Internet copyright filter would certainly go some way toward protecting the rights of copyright holders and would make it harder for music, movies, TV shows, and other video content to be uploaded and viewed by the public. Unsurprisingly, the proposed measure has attracted considerable support from the entertainment industry.

However, there has been considerable opposition to the proposed Internet copyright filter by digital rights groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, Open Rights Group, European Digital Rights and the Civil Liberties Union for Europe. In total, 56 organizations have added their name to an open letter to EU policymakers calling for Article 13 to be dropped.

Those organizations believe that while there are benefits to Article 13, the Internet copyright filter would be impossible to implement without also violating the freedom of expression detailed in Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, as well as imposing excessive restrictions on citizens’ fundamental rights.

If passed, Internet companies would be forced to take down content to avoid possible legal liability, and that would undoubtedly see them erring on the side of caution and applying excessive filtering controls. Legitimate content would be deleted and Internet filtering controls would limit freedom to impart and receive information.  Further, it would be difficult in practice to differentiate illegal uploads of content that violate copyright laws from legitimate uses of content.

Whether the letter will result in Article 13 being dropped remains to be seen, but if not, there are likely to be further challenges. As is mentioned in the letter, previous attempts to introduce new laws that conflict with the Charter of Fundamental Rights have been rejected by the Court of Justice. If those precedents are followed, Article 13 would likely be rendered invalid.