The Council of the European Union today backed a controversial copyright crackdown in a ‘deeply disappointing’ vote that could impact on all internet users.

Six countries voted against the proposal which has been opposed by 5million people through a Europe-wide petition – Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Finland and Sweden.
Three more nations abstained, but the UK voted for the crackdown and there were not enough votes for a blocking minority.

The proposal is expected to lead to the introduction of ‘filters’ on sites such as YouTube, which will automatically remove content that could be copyrighted. While entertainment footage is most likely to be affected, academics fear it could also restrict the sharing of knowledge, and critics argue it will have a negative impact on freedom of speech and expression online.

EU member states will have two years to implement the law, and the regulations are still expected to affect the UK despite Brexit.

The Open Knowledge Foundation said the battle is not over, with the European elections providing an opportunity to elect ‘open champions’.

Catherine Stihler, chief executive of the Open Knowledge Foundation, said:

“This is a deeply disappointing result which will have a far-reaching and negative impact on freedom of speech and expression online.

The controversial crackdown was not universally supported, and I applaud those national governments which took a stand and voted against it.

We now risk the creation of a more closed society at the very time we should be using digital advances to build a more open world where knowledge creates power for the many, not the few.

But the battle is not over. Next month’s European elections are an opportunity to elect a strong cohort of open champions at the European Parliament who will work to build a more open world.”

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