ERROR: COPYRIGHT NOT DETECTED. What EU Redditors Can Expect to See Today and Why It Matters

By ak-man

We’ve spent a lot of time in the past year sharing updates and information on proposed changes to the EU Copyright Directive. Even though Reddit is an American company, we’d be highly impacted by changes to the law, as would our European users. It could even impact the availability of services we provide to non-EU users.

At its heart, changes to the law (known as Article 13), would force us to proactively confirm that the OP of any given post has the necessary copyright permissions to share it– something functionally impossible without installing automated content filters. Another part of the law, known as Article 11, would also force a change in how we process link posts, and could even impact discussions of specific news articles. Such regulations would create a chilling effect that penalizes smaller platforms and creators in favor of the large companies and media conglomerates that are already employing (or selling) automated content filters (to disastrous effect). But don’t just take our word for it. Check out what the guy at the UN whose literal job it is to protect free expression worldwide has to say about it.

This is a business issue for us– make no mistake. The passage of the new EU Copyright Directive would seriously impact Reddit’s ability to compete in the market against bigger players. But it’s also about more than that. Throughout our history, we have stood up against legislative efforts around the world that threaten to make the internet more closed, whether it was fighting against SOPA/PIPA in the US, or against the repeal of net neutrality protections.

What is most disappointing about the current EU Copyright Directive is the closed and opaque process by which we got here. Activists and normal netizens have been left out as things have kicked from backroom deal to backroom deal. Citizens exercising their right to be heard have been denigrated by those in power as “the mob.” There have been attempts to reschedule plenary votes as a means of pre-empting civil society demonstrations.

Despite these headwinds, you’re all doing incredible things to make your voices heard, whether through direct protests or by presenting the largest petition in history. Right here on Reddit, communities are actively discussing the Directive’s pros and cons in a civil and informed way that many (incorrectly) say isn’t possible on the internet anymore. And today, we’re joining together with platforms, creators, and civil society on Action Week against the Directive.

What’s Happening?

Starting today, March 21 (Brussels time!), when Reddit desktop users in EU countries attempt to make a top-level post on Reddit, they will be met by a simulated error message citing failure to confirm the copyright on their post (don’t worry, in actuality, your post will be fine). This experience, meant to mimic the automated filters that users would encounter should the Directive pass, will last through March 23rd, when IRL demonstrations are planned across Europe.

This is all leading up to the final Plenary vote on the Directive in the EU Parliament likely next week (though exact date still TBC).

What Can You Do?

We hope that our EU users will take this opportunity to educate themselves and get involved. Most important is to contact your MEP (be civil and polite when explaining your point). You could also participate in one of the demonstrations this weekend– check here for one that is near you. Or, you could read up on the issues and share your point of view right here on Reddit.

The bottom line is that the internet works better when it’s open. While copyright reform is important, it shouldn’t come at the expense of everyday people’s ability to express themselves online.