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European Copyright reform hampers Free Software development

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The FSFE and Open Forum Europe teamed up for an initiative to show the implications of the proposed EU copyright reform for the Free Software development ecosystem: Save Code Share. As part of this initiative, today we release our White Paper which highlights the ways in which the proposed Article 13 could unintentionally harm the communities and the businesses built around Free Software.

Free Software is often built by collaborative networks of programmers that rely on code hosting services. Free Software allows and encourages modifications and improvements made by everyone. For that, the software is shared with everybody under terms that allow using it, studying its source code, sharing it along, and customising it according to one's needs. This is often done on code sharing platforms.

With its copyright proposal, the EU has decided to update the rules applicable for online service providers, mainly targeting content sharing platforms. The new rules proposed by the EU will create legal uncertainty for developers using online tools when contributing to the Free Software projects through online code sharing platforms. Those proposed obligations on code sharing platforms will threaten their existence, and effective online co-development by:

"As a result, every user, of a code sharing platform: an individual, company, or a public body is treated as a potential copyright infringer whose content, including the whole code repositories, can be taken down and disabled at any time." says Polina Malaja, Policy Analyst and Legal Coordinator at the FSFE.

After explaining how Free Software platforms work in practice, the White Paper shows how Article 13 restricts important fundamental rights of developers and internet users such as the right to privacy, freedom of expression, and the freedom to conduct a business. Article 13, as currently proposed, would shift the responsibility for protecting allegedly infringed rights from rightholders to the platforms, in a way that would harm fundamental rights and negatively impact collaborative software development, and especially Free Software.

If Article 13 has completely missed this impact in the software sharing environment, it is likely that there are other unforeseen impacts that the proposed Copyright Directive can have. The legislators need to make sure they understand where and how innovation takes place nowadays, to fully grasp the consequences and implications that the proposed Article 13 can create for our economy and our society.

Read our White Paper in full here.