Brno, Czech Republic – The Czech and Slovak editions of Wikipedia shut down on Thursday to protest against new EU copyright legislation.
Apart from the Czech and Slovak versions of the online encyclopedia, the campaign also resulted in the blackout of the German and Danish editions of Wikipedia. The 24-hour shutdown was introduced to protest against the controversial European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. Presented by the European Commission back in 2016, the new legislation has sparked an EU-wide debate since then. A vote in the European Parliament on the reform package is due to take place next week, on March 26.
The new EU directive would make online platforms responsible for copyright infringement by its users, and could force them to install mechanisms to scan content, in what critics see as a new form of “web censorship”.
The Wikimedia Foundation argued that “the EU Commission presented a one-sided proposal and added worrying elements to the directive”. It asks for articles 11 and 13, the most controversial of the directive, to be removed from the reform package, which it otherwise supports for bringing “century-old legislation in line with the digital future”.
“Article 11 […] will require licenses for all online uses of news content apart from a few exceptions. This means that websites which aggregate, organize or make sense of the news will no longer be able to display snippets alongside those articles”, the Wikimedia Foundation argues. “Article 13 will impose liability on platforms for copyright-infringing content uploaded by users unless they meet a number of stringent requirements.”
Wikipedia editors claim the new filters will be costly and bar users from adding content on the platform, while restricting their right to cite sources and affecting the quality of their work and content they provide.
Other websites, including Reddit, PornHub and Twitch, have also joined the movement and displayed large banners on their websites and social media profiles to “save the internet” and urge their users to protest against article 13.