Next week’s vote on the European Union’s Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market is an opportunity to advance the situation of libraries. But unless an Article which would effectively force the filtering of speech on the internet is removed, it could also do a lot of harm.

A decisive vote on the European Union’s new copyright Directive is due next week, after years of intense discussion.

The Directive includes valuable progress on key dossiers for libraries, making it easier to carry out text and data mining, preserve documents, and give access to works which are not available on the market.

Much of this is down to the work of IFLA and its partners, who have engaged with Member States, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and others to show the need for change.

Yet the Directive contains other measures which risk undermining fundamental freedoms online.

With internet platforms a key means of sharing ideas and creativity, it is important to take a proportionate approach to regulation of content.

Steps taken must not lead to the blocking of free speech, as would be inevitable under the current of Article 13 (renumbered to 17 in the voting document), a point already underlined by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression.

Organisations such as national Wikipedias and other platforms without the resources of the biggest market players (Google, Facebook etc) have underlined their concerns by replacing their sites with warnings of the impact of this provision.

A Directive without Article 13 would be the best way of protecting fundamental freedoms, while supporting libraries in their mission to drive education, preservation and innovation.

IFLA Secretary-General Gerald Leitner said:

If we don’t protect freedom of expression today, the libraries of tomorrow will not be able to fulfil their missions. To protect freedom of access to information, now and into the future, MEPs should pass the Copyright Directive without Article 13.

It is vital for Europe to get this right. The decisions made by MEPs net week will not only have a direct impact on what libraries and their users can do inside Europe, but also set an example for legislation elsewhere in the world.

Read more about IFLA’s work on the copyright reform. You can also read our most recent blog about the weakness of the arguments for Article 13.