The highly controversial EU copyright reform is legal according to a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The court in Luxembourg on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit brought by Poland against parts of the reform.

It pointed out that the regulation provides appropriate guarantees to protect the right to freedom of expression and information on platforms such as YouTube.

Nevertheless, critics of the reform welcomed the fact that the ECJ set narrow limits for the use of so-called upload filters.

The 2019 copyright reform was intended to adapt outdated copyright law in the EU to the digital age and ensure creators better remuneration for their content online.

In Germany and other EU countries, there were large protests.

Criticism of possible censorship

Above all, critics complain that platforms such as YouTube have to check whether content is protected by copyright when it is uploaded.

This is only possible via so-called upload filters, where there is a risk that more than necessary will be sorted out.

This would amount to censorship.

In this context, the focus is primarily on Article 17 of the reform, which became known as Article 13 during the negotiations between EU states and the European Parliament.

The Polish government's lawsuit was also directed against this part of the reform.

Warsaw argued that this violated freedom of expression and information.

The ECJ has now rejected this view.

It is true that the online services - depending on how many files are uploaded to them - are forced to use automatic filters, and the right of users to freedom of expression and information is restricted by the liability regulation.

However, the reform provides “clear and precise limits for the measures” by excluding legally uploaded content from being filtered out or blocked during upload.

"Pyrrhic victory" for proponents

The SPD MEP Tiemo Wölken sees the verdict as a Pyrrhic victory for the supporters of upload filters.

The ECJ had declared the filters to be lawful in principle.

At the same time, however, the judges made it clear that this was only the case "because the blocking or filtering of legal content is explicitly excluded".

Unreliable filters should therefore not be used.

The pirate politician Patrick Breyer spoke of a "partial success against internet censorship".

The ECJ made “high demands that could hardly be met by the previous unreliable filter algorithms”.

The procedures of corporations such as Facebook or Google did not meet these requirements.

Felix Reda, project manager at the Society for Freedom Rights and former member of the European Parliament, comments on the verdict as follows: “Today's verdict is an important step towards protecting freedom of expression online.

Nevertheless, it is not enough.

The European Court of Justice does not entirely rule out the use of upload filters to enforce copyright on online platforms.”

At least the court confirms what civil society has been emphasizing for years: upload filters are not able to reliably distinguish between copyright infringements and legitimate forms of free expression of opinion such as parodies or quotations, explained Reda (Case C-401/19).

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