sara-kurfess-747821-unsplashWe have written before about the potential problems posed by the new spate of copyright laws introduced in the European Union, and the way that their application could create more problems than they could hope to solve when it comes to trying to serve the people they mean to help (assuming that they aim to help the public at large.) Automated copyright filters might catch all of the potential infringers in the act of uploading the offending material, but it also catches far more than that, and innocent and unsuspecting users might get caught up in the process as well. And given that any governing body should strive to do the least harm in addition to prevent crimes as possible, it seemed that the new measures put in place would eventually find scrutiny from some governmental body or another.

In this case, it was Poland that filed the first challenge to the new system, criticizing the measure as "preventative censorship". The country is taking its case to the Court of Justice of the European Union, framing the issue as a matter of free speech, as Engadget reports.

The devil is, as always, in the details, and in its efforts to stymie piracy and infringement, the EU appears to have unintentionally throttled a large portion of the internet and its content. By holding platforms responsible for any offending content that gets uploaded, the EU has given incentive to those platforms to be overzealous in its approach to filtering uploads, under the notion that it's better to punish the innocent than to let the guilty go free, to borrow a legal axiom.

Every major action is ultimately about the unintended consequences, and in the instance of the EU, copyright filters have served to scare off honest creators as well as scofflaws, with many an average user afraid to upload anything for fear it will get caught in the draconian technological dragnet put in place by platforms that have been made more afraid of government action than user backlash. And as Poland and its government suggest, any system as restrictive as the upload filter is subject to possible abuse, not only by the platforms themselves but by governments willing to pressure those same platforms to censor dissent.

There are certainly going to be growing pains and mistakes as society adjusts to the rapid changes brought on by heretofore undreamt-of technological advances, and the stultifying approach of the EU is arguably no worse than the hands-off approach that many of the biggest tech firms out of Silicon Valley have taken. All that can be said is that the powers that be need to decide what the best approach to these new problems are, before they get much worse.

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