Prepare for the shutdown of Slovak Wikipedia

Wikipedia's decision comes a few days before the vote on a new EU Copyright Directive.

Slovak Wikipedia shuts down on March 21,2019 to protest the new EU Copyright Directive.Slovak Wikipedia shuts down on March 21,2019 to protest the new EU Copyright Directive. (Source: Denník N)

The Slovak version of Wikipedia will shut down for 24 hours on March 21, 2019 alongside the German and Czech pages, the Wikimedia Slovak Republic Foundation informed on its website.

The free encyclopaedia is taking this step to protest against the EU Copyright Directive, on which MEPs in the European Parliament are to vote on March 26. If the directive is passed, EU countries will have to implement it.

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“The European Commission presented a one-sided proposal and added worrying elements to the directive,” Allison Davenport, a technology law and policy fellow of the Wikimedia Foundation, said in a press release.

The organisation initially supported the directive but now claims that articles 11 and 13 are written in favour of big rights holding companies and news publishers. It asks the EU to remove them from the final text of the directive.

What is worrying about the directive?

Article 11 will impact more than just news aggregators, Wikimedia claimed, as licences will be required every time online news content is used.

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“This means that websites which aggregate, organise, or make sense of the news will no longer be able to display snippets alongside those articles,” explained Davenport.

As a result, people may struggle to find information even though there are some exceptions.

In addition, Article 13 is supposed to hold online platforms to account if their users uploaded the content protected by copyright. In reality, websites would have to obtain authorisation for all their online content and remove the content violating the copyright law at the same time.

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“Only the most sophisticated and well-funded websites will be able to develop the technology to enforce these rules themselves,” Davenport claimed.

In fact, the diversity of content could be threatened by this provision, the Wikimedia Foundation added.

Proving the right to share

Moreover, sharing knowledge will be challenged by severe obstacles if the directive is adopted. Users will have to prove they have permission to share information before being uploaded by a platform, claimed Davenport.

“The EU Copyright Directive envisions a technical and legal infrastructure that treats user generated content with suspicion unless proven to be legal,” she added.

The Wikimedia Foundation therefore rejects the reform as a whole and asks the European Parliament to vote on it after the EP elections in May.

Wikimedia proposals rejected

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The debate on copyright law reform took place at the EU level in 2013.

Wikimedia proposed several changes to the directive. For example, the freedom of panorama exception was supposed to enable photographers to take and share photos of public buildings and art.

Also, Wikimedia demanded a greater harmonisation of rules around the public domain, so that faithful reproductions of public domain works would not be subject to new rights.

“In the end, these changes will also have a negative impact on Wikipedia,” wrote Wikimedia Slovak Republic in its press release. “When building up our encyclopaedia, we are dependent on the outside world.”

Wikipedia has decided to speak out against the directive despite the fact that the new copyright directive excludes the free encyclopaedia as a non-commercial project from its provisions.

However, the Wikimedia Foundation has welcomed the directive as it “brings century-old legislation in line with the digital future”.

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