EU copyright reforms draw fire from internet luminaries as key vote looms

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe’s attempts to force Google, Microsoft and other tech giants to share revenues with publishers and bear liability for internet content have triggered criticism from internet pioneers ahead of a key vote on Wednesday.

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Two years after the European Commission presented plans to reform rules to take into account the growing role of online platforms, a key committee at the European Parliament will vote on the issue.

Early signs suggest that the committee will likely secure approval while dissenting lawmakers have said they will then force a vote at the general assembly in early July.

The final step would be negotiations with EU countries to find a common stand.

Two points have proved controversial among internet luminaries and some lawmakers -- article 11 or the so-called neighboring right for press publishers which could force Google, Microsoft and others to pay publishers for showing news snippets.

Similar laws introduced by Spain and Germany in the past resulted in Google News quitting Spain while Germany’s biggest news publisher Axel Springer had to scrap a bid to block Google from running news snippets from its newspapers following a plunge in traffic.

Article 13 or mandatory upload filtering would require online platforms such as YouTube, GitHub, Instagram and eBay to install filters to prevent users from uploading copyrighted materials or seek licenses to display content.

Critics say this could mean the end for internet memes where ordinary internet users riff on other people’s photos, music or video while others fear it could become a tool to control and spy on users.

Green lawmaker at the European Parliament Julia Reda said the Commission’s proposal would only benefit large media companies.

“The intentions may be good but the methods to address the issue are catastrophic and will hurt the people they want to protect,” Reda told journalists.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said mandatory upload filters could turn out to be more harmful than beneficial.

Filters “could create the basis for more invasive monitoring of all internet content, while new types of exclusive rights would limit the ways that people share information on the web,” Wales said.

Last week, Wales, World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, net neutrality expert Tim Wu and internet pioneer Vint Cerf were among a group of luminaries who wrote to Parliament President Antonio Tajani to voice concerns about the upload filter proposal.

A U.N. expert on freedom of expression, Special Rapporteur David Kaye, has also expressed his worries to the Commission and EU countries.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Adrian Croft