Letter to Mr John Howarth MEP

21 March 2019

With the coming calamity that is the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, and Article 13 and Article 11, I wrote to a number of MEPs asking for their support in ensuring that this does not pass. Most were supportive, but Mr John Howarth MEP replied with a lot of rubbish. I have copied my reply to him below. Please do write to your MEPs about this issue.

Dear Mr John Howarth MEP

Thank you for your reply, but with respect I think you are very wrong about the effect of the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, and Article 13 and Article 11 that is before you. You had a series of claims on which I think you are wrong. I respectfully ask you to reconsider your position.

On 21/03/2019 13:41, John Howarth MEP wrote:

Among all of this claims have been made about the proposed legislation that are wildly exaggerated or simply untrue. The implementation of updated copyright legislation will NOT end the internet as we know it.

No, it will not end the internet, but it will seriously change it. As the internet is now the means of communication and organisation for society the dominance of the giant companies will shape the internet in ways that support their business, not be a conduit for social change. Article 11 imposes a tax on linking. The link is a fundamental part of the internet, taxing and restricting this will change the internet in ways we cannot predict, but probably not good ways.

It will NOT constrain or unduly limit ‘free speech’,

And this is my main point. Upload filters are a pre-restraint on speech. A fundamental right. This amounts to institutional censorship of the internet. Who will police the upload filters to ensure that they are not over-blocking? There will be no penalty for falsely claiming copyright on a work in the blocking list. This is designed to promote over-blocking.

It gives more power to the vested interests that are already using the current powers to limit free speech. The notice and take-down requirements are repeatedly used the claim copyright in content to force unpalatable content off the internet. Are you a regular contributor to YouTube? if you are you will know that your uploads are randomly taken down because of spurious copyright claims. Or because you have accidentally incorporated some background music that has been detected. Here are some links to documented abuse of Notice and Take-down:


it will NOT place an unreasonable burden on the internet giants who have put significant time and effort into misleading people because they believe it threatens their super profits.

Yes Here I agree with you, that the large companies will not be unduly affected, it will cement their market dominance, and any smaller company that grows above the threshold will suddenly have to implement filters at huge expense. Nobody will be able to challenge the dominant players and this will stifle innovation.

It will not “outlaw memes”, it protects and defines the notion of satire and parody (which, by the way, were not in any way protected in the outdated copyright regimes that have applied till now). Exceptions set out in the legislation protect free academic enquiry, small businesses and bloggers.

I welcome the exceptions for academic research Article 4, but even here copyright claims (false or valid) will affect everyone, there will be no way to turn off the upload filters just because you are doing research, or your usage is satire, or parody. You will have your upload blocked and will have to go through a lengthy process to obtain remedy. Upload filters give a presumption of gilt.

I do not believe that the legislation in any way limits the ability of the open source software community to continue to trade on the business model it has operated for some time – in other words the ‘sharing economy’ will continue to do just fine. The monopolistic platforms benefit from this “free internet”, however the fact is nothing is “free” – someone always pays, whether through collection of personal data in exchange for access or by the exploitation of their work.

Well that is not the view of Github, perhaps the largest open source community on the internet. Even as the latest version seems to have a very explicit exception for open source software.


Yours sincerely

Stuart Ward