Collaborative coding platform GitHub has warned that a proposed change to copyright rules in the European Union could lead to problems for developers who upload their source to remote servers and onerous conditions on those who host such platforms.
A proposal to add a new Article to the Copyright Directive was created by EU lawmakers with, it seems, the best of intentions: the requirement for sites which allow users to upload and stream music and video content to scan said content for copyright material, preventing what is at present a major channel for casual copyright infringement.
GitHub, however, warns that the way it is worded means it extends well beyond music and video content to any content uploaded to remote servers - including source code. 'Upload filters ("censorship machines") are one of the most controversial elements of the copyright proposal, raising a number of concerns, including: Privacy; free speech; [and] ineffectiveness,' writes GitHub's Abby Vollmer in a blog post highlighting the issue. 'Upload filters are especially concerning for software developers.
'Software developers create copyrightable works—their code—and those who choose an open source license want to allow that code to be shared. False positives (and negatives) are especially likely for software code because code often has many contributors and layers, often with different licensing for different components. Requiring code-hosting platforms to scan and automatically remove content could drastically impact software developers when their dependencies are removed due to false positives.'
Vollmer confirms that GitHub will be attending a Parliamentary breakfast discussion on the matter, but urges software developers and other concerned parties to write to EU policymakers asking for software repositories to be specifically and explicitly excluded from Article 13.
March 25 2020 | 14:00