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EU crackdown on copyright infringement a 'massive blow for every internet user in Europe', Catherine Stihler warns

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EU crackdown on copyright infringement a 'massive blow for every internet user in Europe', Catherine Stihler warns

A controversial new EU crackdown on copyright infringement represents a “massive blow for every internet user in Europe”, former Labour MEP Catherine Stihler has warned.

MEPs voted by 348 to 274 in favour of the changes, aimed at holding technology companies responsible for material posted without proper copyright permission.

The Copyright Directive is expected to mean the introduction of ‘filters’ on sites such as YouTube, which will automatically remove content that could be copyrighted.

But while entertainment footage is most likely to be affected, academics have expressed concern it could also restrict the sharing of knowledge, while also potentially restricting freedom of speech and expression online.

Meanwhile, although the European Parliament has suggested that memes would be "specifically excluded" from the Directive, critics have questioned how tech firms would be able to enforce that rule with a blanket filter.

EU member states will have two years to implement the law, and the regulations are still expected to affect the UK despite Brexit.

Catherine Stihler, now the chief executive of the Open Knowledge Foundation, said: “This vote is a massive blow for every internet user in Europe.

“MEPs have rejected pleas from millions of EU citizens to save the internet, and chose instead to restrict freedom of speech and expression online.

“We now risk the creation of a more closed society at the very time we should be using digital advances to build a more open world where knowledge creates power for the many, not the few.

“But while this result is deeply disappointing, the forthcoming European elections provide an opportunity for candidates to stand on a platform to seek a fresh mandate to reject this censorship.”

European Parliament Rapporteur Axel Voss defended the legislation.

He said: "This directive is an important step towards correcting a situation which has allowed a few companies to earn huge sums of money without properly remunerating the thousands of creatives and journalists whose work they depend on.”

"It helps make the internet ready for the future, a space which benefits everyone, not only a powerful few."

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