Letter to EU from Re:Create Executive Director

European Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip
European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Günther H. Oettinger
Rue De La Loi 200
1000 Brussels

Dear Commission Vice President Ansip and Commissioner Oettinger,

We are writing today in response to a concerning news report that the European Commission (EC) is considering reviewing the important safe harbor framework for internet intermediaries that are at the cornerstone of the global internet economy and internet consumer experience. Weakening EU safe harbor provisions on which startups and internet businesses rely will have a negative economic impact on the digital economy.

The safe harbors have provided the foundation for the success of the internet that today enables over $8 trillion in e-commerce each year. In addition, the market value of the “internet of things” in the EU economy is expected to exceed $1 trillion by 2020. They do so by limiting liability for websites that host user generated and other third party content without worrying that they will be on the hook for potentially massive damages if a user posts content that infringes copyright.

That is why the August 1 Politico Europe story, “Commission Torn on Over Copyright Loophole,” by Chris Spillane on the Commission considering departing from the safe harbor framework under EU copyright law is so concerning.

The benefits of the internet extend far beyond economic factors. Its growth has democratized and enabled a creative revolution to the benefit of both creators and consumers who have made it their preferred platform for the distribution and consumption of media. In 2015, overall revenues for the recorded music industry were up by .9% to $7 billion with streaming as the largest component of industry revenues, comprising 34.3% of the market. Today, streaming video accounts for over a third of all internet traffic. Independent artists are also on the rise, seeing a 60 percent increase in revenue as more people are creating more things on more mediums than ever before.

The safe harbors strike an appropriate balance and rightfully recognize that internet intermediaries should not be responsible for monitoring for infringing works. This is because it is often impossible for them to determine if content is licensed, infringing, or if it is permitted under copyright law. The risk of being responsible for infringing content would be a huge burden on online intermediaries that host content, like YouTube, WordPress, Facebook and Etsy. As Spillane noted in his August 1 story, YouTube alone receives around 400 hours of content every minute. The same goes for some basic functions of the internet like comment sections and blogging platforms that depend on user generated content. Without this balance, it is likely the internet we know today a place where creativity is thriving would not exist.

There is also, according to the article, consideration of an alternative proposal to strengthen identification requirements for users uploading content to the internet. This would have a damaging impact on user privacy and creativity. Creating some sort of identification requirement to upload content would be an absolute chill on both free speech and creativity online. Users would be significantly less willing to post online in a world where they might have to disclose who they are, where they live and how to contact them. Part of the creative success of the internet comes from the ability to post things without fear of people being able to reach them in the offline world.

We encourage you to strongly consider the negative impacts of both of these proposed solutions, and maintain both the safe harbors and user privacy online to allow the internet to continue growing and supporting economic growth and creativity across the globe.

Joshua Lamel
Executive Director