A new European Citizen Initiative titled “Freedom to Share” aims to legalize file-sharing. The group, which is backed by Wikimedia Italy as well as Pirate parties in several countries, plans to gather a million signatures at which point the EU is obliged to organize a public hearing to seriously consider the proposal. This could theoretically lead to new legislation.
Millions of people around the world use torrent sites and forms of file-sharing to share copyrighted material on a regular basis. In most countries, this is against the law.
This restrictive stance toward ‘sharing’ is problematic according to a group of activists, who have launched the “Freedom to Share” initiative.
One Million Signatures
The campaign is a European Citizens’ Initiative. This is a form of direct democracy that allows the public to take part in the development of EU law and policies. With enough support across various EU member states and at least one million signatures, the EU Commission will have to officially consider the proposal.
This is certainly not the first time that activists have called for the legalization of file-sharing. However, this campaign has substantial backing. It has support from the Italian Wikimedia Foundation, for example, and various Pirate parties are taking part as well.
Current EU law restricts the freedom of access to science and culture, according to the organizers. It is overly restrictive as the interests of major rightsholders are often put before those of regular people.
Right to Share
“We see the legalization of file-sharing as part of the ‘right to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits’ described in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Freedom to Share informs TorrentFreak.
“We also think that this approach would make some invasive laws obsolete. Examples of such laws span from the infamous ‘upload filters’ described in Article 17 of the EU Copyright Directive, that monitor uploads for copyright infringements, to regulations in some countries that limit open WiFi hotspots on the same ground.”
The Italian attorney Marco Ciurcina acts as a spokesperson for the initiative. He believes that current laws hinder freedom of access to science and culture. Sharing files should not be illegal anywhere, whether that’s via P2P networks such as BitTorrent, email, or other sharing tools.
“The question is: is it fair for copyright, related rights, and sui generis database rights to prevent the sharing of works and other material?” Ciurcina asks.
What About Creators?
The Freedom To Share initiative answers this question with a resounding NO. However, fearing that revenues will plunge, some major copyright holders will see things differently. The group doesn’t believe that artists will be harmed by sharing though, quite the opposite.
“We believe modern technology is an opportunity for authors, not a problem. We also believe that it’s harmful for authors to depend on and support the very unfair and unpopular status quo of copyright laws. Some authors might be appreciated and known by people much more thanks to file-sharing.”
The proposal doesn’t come with any solutions for how creators should be compensated. However, file-sharers can and will still consume legally. Research has shown, for example, that ‘pirates’ spend more on legal entertainment than those who don’t share.
In addition, Freedom to Share suggests that there could be other options to bring in additional revenue. For example, through taxes, or through collecting societies that are dedicated to file-sharing.
The first priority, however, is to bring the legalization proposal into the EU spotlight. Freedom to Share hopes that it will be able to gather enough signatures in the coming weeks. And to reach that goal, it encourages all file-sharers to sign and share their initiative.
Many thanks to TorrentFreak for the breaking news.