Polish dailies print blank front page in EU copyright appeal

Warsaw (AFP) –


Major Polish newspapers printed blank front pages on Monday in an appeal to the European Parliament to adopt controversial copyright reforms that have pitted traditional media firms against internet giants.

"Today, we appeal to Polish members of the European Parliament for solidarity in supporting a vote on the Copyright Directive in the digital single market," read a petition signed by editors-in-chief of 30 Polish national and regional dailies backing the reforms.

"Creators do not receive sufficient compensation for disseminating their works on the Internet. They often live in real poverty or leave the profession," said the statement published by the centrist Rzeczpospolita daily and other newspapers including the liberal Gazeta Wyborcza and the Fakt tabloid.

The run-up to the European Parliament vote on Tuesday has seen furious lobbying and protests by both supporters and opponents of the law, which is designed to update European copyright legislation that pre-dates most online social media and is now nearly two decades old.

Under the changes, European law for the first time would hold platforms legally responsible for enforcing copyright, requiring them to check everything that their users post to prevent infringement.

The reform, two years in the making, is loudly backed by media companies and artists who want to obtain a better return from web platforms -- such as YouTube or Facebook -- that use their content.

The new directive "will support creators, but will not harm Internet users. It will not take away the rights to links, will not ban memes or bring new obligations for non-commercial portals," it argues.

But the directive is strongly opposed by internet giants such as YouTube-owner Google, which make huge profits from the advertising generated on content they host, and also by supporters of a free internet, who fear it will result in unprecedented restrictions to web freedom.

Tens of thousands of protesters rallied in cities around Germany on Saturday under the slogan "Save the Internet".

Save the Internet is a collective which has been mobilised for months to defend a free exchange of opinions on the web.

There were similar protests in Austria, Poland and Portugal on Saturday.