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Fight Fan-Unfriendly EU Legal Developments–Time to Act!

Back in July, fans and allies helped convince the European Parliament to schedule a vote rather than automatically approving some fan-unfriendly proposals. Now it is time to act! The European Parliament will be voting on these proposals in a few days. The short version of “what can I do” is: Contact your MEP now. For the longer version, and a discussion of why these proposals matter to fans, read on!

What Are Articles 11 and 13, and Why are They Bad for Fans?

Fandom loves and thrives on the Internet, and the Internet loves and thrives on fandom! So much of what makes fan communities and fan creativity work so well are the same things that make the Internet what it is: people sharing their transformative creations and linking to things that drive their interests. We post vids, gifs, fics, filks, and so many other wonderful, creative things! We link to news stories about our favorite shows, writers, performers, and trends! We use these things to find ourselves and communicate with people all around the world.

The proposals under consideration–Articles 11 and 13 of the Proposal for a Directive on Copyrights in the Digital Single Market–could make all of these things harder to do. Both proposals would govern how the EU approaches copyright on the internet. Article 11, often called the “link tax” or “ancillary copyright,” would effectively make it infringing for websites to use quotes or snippets to link to copyrighted press publications. Article 13, often called the “censorship machine,” has to do with when websites are liable for material posted by their users, and whether and when websites have an obligation to filter user-posted content to prevent users from posting infringing material.

These provisions would not make fanworks illegal, but they could make fanworks harder to post and find. The precise language of these proposals is still being debated, so it’s hard to predict exactly what sites would be included, and what they would make those sites do. But if they pass, they will definitely require some sites to prevent some kinds of linking and to engage in mandatory content filtering. Some versions of the proposals are worse than others. For example, in some proposals, nonprofit entities like the OTW/AO3 would be exempt from filtering obligations. In others, the rules would take into account the nature of the works hosted, but not take into account a site’s nonprofit status. Regardless, commercial sites like YouTube and Tumblr will likely see new obligations if these Articles pass. To find out even more about these proposals, we recommend reading this Reddit AMA that a few top European intellectual property professors did in June, and the Copyright 4 Creativity Coalition’s CopyBuzz post about the most recent “compromise” proposal.

What does that mean for fans? Non-commercial transformative fanworks would still be legal to create, post and view, but they could easily get caught in mandatory algorithmic filters and never even make it to the Internet. Limitations on how sites can contain links to press publications can make it harder for fans to find fannish information and content. Rules that impose liability on websites for their users’ materials could easily shut some platforms down and prevent new ones from arising. So while these provisions are about Internet platforms, they could make it harder to find and post (non-infringing) fanworks online.

What can fans do?

Between now and the September 12 vote, your voice matters!

For Europeans, that means that the best thing you can do right now is to Contact your MEP and let them know that this matters to you! Let them know that you don’t want websites to be liable for material posted by their users. Let them know that you don’t want algorithms and machines to be filtering internet content for infringement–machines that won’t understand fair use, fair dealing, and transformative free expression. Let them know that Articles 11 and 13 would be bad for European creators, who depend on being able to find and post transformative works.

For people outside Europe, there is (alas!) much less to do–petitions and calls (etc.) to MEPs from outside the EU aren’t helpful at this stage–but please signal-boost this issue on your social networks so that Europeans know to get involved.

OTW Legal will keep fighting for fan-friendly laws on the internet and around the world. But right now, your voice is the one that matters!

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