The Open Source ecosystem: the forgotten victim of EU copyright reform

05 October 2017

Author: OpenForum Europe

EU copyright reform is on track to inadvertently undermine Europe’s open source ecosystem. As European lawmakers in Brussels prepare to vote, Open Forum Europe and the Free Software Foundation Europe call for developers and internet users to action. We need to draw attention to a proposal that will undermine the fundamentals of Open Source and collaborative development.

Today we are launching our SAVE CODE SHARE platform and are calling for lawmakers to fundamentally rethink  Article 13 of the EU Copyright Reform to protect  Free and Open Source Software. KDE, GitHub, OpenUK, Open Knowledge International and 4000 more companies, organisations and individuals have already signed the open letter and now we ask more individuals and organisations to join us.

FOSS is often developed by collaborative networks of programmers, and encourages modifications and improvements by anyone. This implies allowing individual users to use the licensed software as they please, to study its source code, to be able to share it, and to customise it according to their needs.

Article 13 of the proposed Copyright Directive targets software development and other code hosting platforms that are essential to FOSS. These underpin a software and software based services market worth EUR 229 billion in the EU and that employs a workforce of 3.1 million This affects tools such as GitHub, Gitlab or Stackoverflow, widely used by developers.

Our research (peer reviewed by Dr. Angelopoulos), demonstrates how FOSS would suffer from the proposal.  As MEP Catherine Stihler notes, it is vital to avoid “negative impacts to open source’s contribution to the digital economy and to the internet freedoms of our European developers and consumers”.

Our broader concern is that the lawmaking process has ignored the impact of EU copyright reform on the open source community. At the same time, important concerns relating to fundamental rights are only now coming to the fore. We worry that the reform is not fully thought through and will raise many more unforeseen, but serious negative consequences.

Our call for action concludes: ”We, individuals, developers, organisations and companies that develop or rely on the Free and Open Source software ecosystem call upon European decision makers to protect open, collaborative software ecosystems. We call upon European policy makers to fundamentally rethink or delete Article 13 of the EU Copyright Reform in order to avoid the threat it poses for Free and Open Source Software.”