Vikipeedia goes blind

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Tallinn. 29SEP17. Illustreeriv pilt. Vikipeedia, wikipedia, siinus, teadus. Foto: Erik Prozes, Postimees


The question of whether the new European Union copyright directive is a threat to an open and free internet or whether it protects the quality of journalism and copyright is on the minds of interest groups prior to a vote in the European Parliament today.

It is likely today’s vote would not have merited this much attention had the curators of Vikipeedia not made the Estonian version of the online encyclopedia unavailable and said the site would remain blank until the vote yesterday. The vote in question has to determine whether to give the European Parliament a mandate to launch three-way talks with the European Commission and the Council of Europe based on the current draft of the directive or whether the matter should be postponed until fall.

“Dear reader! The European Parliament is set to vote on Thursday, July 5 whether to give the green light to a draft of the EU’s copyright directive that would be a serious threat to a free and open internet,” was the only result any Vikipeedia query produced.

It says that the directive aims to limit existing freedoms and access to internet and would endanger Vikipeedia. “If the directive is passed in its planned form, it could make it impossible to cite news portals’ articles and share them on social media,” Vikipeedia writes.

Curators of Vikipeedia want MEPs to vote against the current draft of the directive.

Member of the European People’s Party (Christian democrats) faction in the European Parliament Tunne Kelam (Pro Patria) said that the vote will not decide the passing of the directive but simply whether negotiations will be launched with member states. “This means that Estonia, among others, will have the chance to strongly influence the final agreement,” Kelam said.

“The result of the negotiations will have to be finally approved by the European Parliament which provides the opportunity to reject an unsuitable result. I have decided to support giving the parliament a mandate to launch talks.”

Kelam said that what’s at stake is the sustainability of journalism and protecting the quality of journalistic work. “If major platforms ignore publishers’ copyright, thousands of journalists could end up losing their jobs,” Kelam said.

The MEP said that the directive in no way infringes on individuals’ right to share news and hyperlinks. “As concerns Vikipeedia, article 2 clearly states that encyclopedias, personal cloud services, educational and scientific databases are not seen as service providers sharing online content and will therefore not be billed.”

The focus is sharpest on two items of the copyright directive: articles 11 and 13. MEP and Reform Party chairman Kaja Kallas finds that the two articles limit freedom of expression and news sharing. The first means that online platforms must monitor content to make sure copyrighted material is not used without the owner’s consent.

“The result would be that a person can no longer update a video of their child’s birthday on YouTube if there is a Beyoncé song playing in the background. It is also clear that while tech giants can comply with such monitoring obligations, it would be much more difficult for smaller players,” Kallas wrote in her blog.

Article 11 gives the publisher so-called neighboring right to protect its digital publications (the content of online portals) with copyright. “The report says that the new rights do not apply to link sharing; however, this remains unclear as no one is sharing the link as such,” Kallas explained.