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Controversial Copyright Law Gets Approved by EU Parliament

The EU Parliament voted (12 Sept) to approve the controversial European Copyright Directive (EUCD) or what many have been dubbing the beginning of the end for the internet and mostly the end of memes.

The law stirred up some controversy back in June when the parliament first voted on it and it got repealed because of public outcry and many writing to their representatives in parliament to reject the bill in its current form. While this stopped the bill from being approved it wasn’t killed, but rather faced a waiting period in which amendments to the bill were submitted. Despite the vocal public opinion against the directive, parliament passed the amended version with an overwhelming majority this Wednesday.

What’s all the fuss about?

The public’s main concern is mainly with two Articles:

Article 11 referred to as the “Link Tax” requiring anyone using a snippet of journalistic online content to pay a license to the publisher for permission to post it. This mainly targets link previews when users share hyperlinks on social media, often showing the headline, a thumbnail picture or a description of the content. The opinion of publishers is that this discourages people from reading the original article while being given the “punch line” on a third-party post. If the rules of the Article should apply, this will hit hard news aggregators, fact checking services, media monitoring services and also social networks in general.

The amendments made to Article 11:

“The rights referred to in paragraph 1 shall not extend to mere hyperlinks, which are accompanied by individual words.” This gives more lenience as the previous Article discouraged any text to be shared including the hyperlink itself, while now it allows for the sharing of individual words. But many have questioned what “individual words” even means. What are the rules? How many of the words are allowed, is the use of the headline permitted and other?

Article 13 referred to as the “Upload Filter”.

“Information society service providers that store and provide to the public access to large amounts of works or other subject-matter uploaded by their users shall, in cooperation with rightholders, take measures to ensure the functioning of agreements concluded with rightholders for the use of their works or other subject-matter or to prevent the availability on their services of works or other subject-matter identified by rightholders through the cooperation with the service providers.”

 

This targets Information society service providers directly, making them liable for copyright infringements made by their users. The Article requires companies such as Facebook, Google, YouTube, Instagram to put complicated systems in place monitoring all content uploaded to the site for copyright infringement. While most of these companies have such systems in place this law covers all types of content from music to photos to text and no company has the capacity to be able to monitor the vast amount of data and doing it as quickly and as efficiently as the EU wants it to be. While this could be managed by the aforementioned big companies with a large investment of resources, for small media companies this will be impossible and that’s why many have named this law the “startup killer”.

“I am convinced that once the dust has settled, the internet will be as free as it is today, creators and journalists will be earning a fairer share of the revenues generated by their works, and we will be wondering what all the fuss was about,” said Axel Voss, a German lawmaker and sponsor behind the bill.

Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake wasn’t that optimistic: “The Parliament squandered the opportunity to get the copyright reform on the right track. This is a disastrous result for the protection of our fundamental rights, ordinary internet users and Europe´s future in the field of artificial intelligence. We have set a step backwards instead of creating a true copyright reform that is fit for the 21st century.”

However, the regulations are not final yet. The European Parliament still needs to negotiate and sign off on a final version of the proposal with the European Council. Once it is signed off on, each EU member state (which no longer includes the U.K.) will need to pass its own laws implementing the changes, which will no doubt make for varied interpretations.

The Precedent

Some EU countries like Germany (German Copyright Act) and Spain have similar laws in place and have proven to be ineffective. In Germany not a single publisher has made a significant amount of money perusing their copyright rights and small news aggregators have essentially been forced to shut down. Directly comparing the two proves that the EU draft avoids all issues that have shown to be problematic in Germany. In Spain according to the EPRS “[It has] clearly had a negative impact on visibility and access to information in Spain”.

Violations of existing laws

The Directive directly contradicts the provisions the E-Commerce Directive has put in place in the case of the liability of information society service providers.

Text of E-Commerce Directive:

Article 14 Hosting 1. Where an information society service is provided that consists of the storage of information provided by a recipient of the service, Member States shall ensure that the service provider is not liable for the information stored at the request of a recipient of the service, on condition that:

(a) the provider does not have actual knowledge of illegal activity or information and, as regards claims for damages, is not aware of facts or circumstances from which the illegal activity or information is apparent; or

(b) the provider, upon obtaining such knowledge or awareness, acts expeditiously to remove or to disable access to the information. (…)

Article 15 No general obligation to monitor

Member States shall not impose a general obligation on providers, when providing the services covered by Articles 12, 13 and 14, to monitor the information which they transmit or store, nor a general obligation actively to seek facts or circumstances indicating illegal activity. (…)

 

Other negative effects

Many think that the new law will encourage fake news, since propaganda channels will not charge for publications as to get their content to as many people as possible, which will put their content in the foreground.

And what will happen to fair use, since there are no provisions for it in the text.

47 thoughts on “Controversial Copyright Law Gets Approved by EU Parliament

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