Rising privacy-focused search engine Qwant is calling for the Copyright Directive to be passed by the EU Parliament. Founder Eric Léandri says his platform is ready to pay creators for use of their works but is calling for an external database of copyrighted works as a reference point. Last year, however, the company said that Article 13 presented a “risk for fundamental rights and freedoms.”
Launched in 2013, French-based search engine Qwant markets itself as a privacy-friendly service.
In an interview published in French publication Les Echos (paywall), Qwant founder and boss Éric
On Article 11 (which opponents refer to as the ‘link tax’),
On Article 13 (‘censorship machines’ / ‘upload filters’),
“We consider, that besides the editors of press and journalists, the world of culture and creation must be justly paid,”
“But this article scares the advocates of a free Internet, which we are, because it requires all platforms, except the very small, to identify protected content that would be indexed illegally, which they have always refused so far, believing that it is unmanageable.”
So why the surprising support for the Copyright Directive?
“The modalities of application of this article are to be discussed and transposed in each country. We propose, at this stage, to condition the directive with the setting up of a free and open public platform in which the authors, the photographers, in short all the players, would deposit their photographs, videos
“The idea would be that companies on the Web can [query this database] to see if the content they use is free of copyrights, or not. Clearly, you send the photo that you want to use and [the database] answers you, yes, or no, depending on the footprint that has been associated with it. It’s much simpler technically than you think. And more right.”
While this kind of system could perhaps go some way to calming fears over the creation of an “upload filter oligopoly” as described recently by Germany’s Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information,
A database of content – whether it’s stored within YouTube’s systems or elsewhere – does not have the ability to differentiate when copyrighted content is used legally, for “parody, satire, reporting or criticism purposes”, for example.
And the quote above is indeed just that – and it came from Qwant itself – dug up by TF on the company’s blog.
In a commentary published last year warning against Article 13 and titled “Putting our freedom of speech into the hands of robots”, the piece warns that automated systems can indeed hinder freedom of expression.
“We believe that when they rely on platforms to express themselves, citizens should be free to use content that they feel is needed to support their point of view, provided that this use is proportionate,” the article reads.
“This puts a heavy burden on robots that can’t determine when a human being is making a proportionate and legal use of a third-party content, for instance for parody, satire, reporting or criticism purposes.
“Putting our freedom of speech into the hands of robots that will look into what human beings share and assess the legality of what they say is not the Internet we want for our children. So while we understand the need for
While the idea of an external database is novel,
“[T]o prove to you how much I support this directive, I announce to you that, without even waiting for its vote, Qwant will start to pay the editors of content, so the newspapers for the texts, the photographers for the photos, and the video and music publishers that our search engine indexes,”
Proponents of Article 13 are already praising Qwant on social media for its support of the Copyright Directive but the apparent conflict may yet prove an irritant to users of its service, who value its stated open Internet stance.
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