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Updated: European Parliament passes Copyright Directive; reactions

Update, 28 March: The European Parliament has issued a list of FAQs from the Copyright Directive that was passed yesterday. It states that it arrived towards this legislation through a ‘thorough and democratic process’ which began in 2013, and included multiple studies, impact assessments, discussions, proposals and votes.

  • The Parliament explained that this directive does not target the ‘ordinary user’ but impacts large online platforms and news aggregators like Google’s YouTube, Google News or Facebook.
  • It adds that due to outdated copyright laws and rules, artists, news publishers and journalists’ work was circulating freely, letting online platforms and news aggregators “reap all the rewards”, taking earnings away from the former group.
  • The draft directive only ensures that their rights are better enforced, without creating any new rights.

“The draft directive intends to oblige giant internet platforms and news aggregators (like YouTube or GoogleNews) to pay content creators (artists/musicians/actors and news houses and their journalists) what they truly owe them…”

  • In the absence of fair remuneration and licensing agreements with the artists and media houses, platforms will be directly liable if they host a piece of work with an unpaid license fee.

“The expectation is that the draft directive will push the online platforms to finally roll out a policy to fairly remunerate all those from whose work they make their money.”

On censorship, it says

“The directive will not censor. By increasing legal liability, it will increase pressure on internet platforms to conclude fair remuneration deals with the creators of work through which the platforms make money. This is not censorship.”

On the differentiation between startups and large platforms

The Parliament explains that platforms set up less than 3 years ago, with an annual turnover of less than EUR 10 million and average monthly unique visitors lower than 5 million will have lesser obligations than large, established ones.

On which platforms the directive is applicable to

“The directive addresses those platforms whose main purpose is to store, organise and promote for profit-making purposes a large amount of copyright-protected works uploaded by its users. This would exclude wikipedia, GitHub, dating sites, Ebay and numerous other types of platforms for example.”

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27 March: The European Parliament has voted to pass the entire text of the Copyright Directive, including Article 11 (now 15) and Article 13 (now 17), with 348 in favour of it and 274 against, reports the Inquirer. A vote to allow amendments to the Copyright Directive was also rejected by 317 in favour and 312 against.

Article 11 and Article 13 ask for search engines and news aggregating platforms to pay for the use of links from news websites, and hold companies responsible for the content posted without a copyright license on their sites, respectively. In case of Article 13, they would need to filter content before it is uploaded. Interestingly, Article 13 excludes cloud storage services along with existing exclusions like parody, including memes.

Note that earlier this month, David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, had said that the new copyright law should not come at the cost of freedom of expression. Kaye had also written to the EU on a previous version of this directive asking it to reconsider its conditions. Activists had also called for civil action to stop this directive from going through.

The Copyright Directive will be sent to the Council which will look at formally adopting the law in 2 weeks. The report states that Germany may withdraw its support in the Council, in case of which the formal adoption may go beyond the European elections beginning on 23 May. If adopted by the Council, the directive will also have to be adopted by the EU’s member states in their local legislation, which could take up to 2 years.

How companies and individuals reacted to the passing of the Directive

Reddit, Wikipedia and GitHub had opposed the passing of this directive, while there were protests across Germany,  Sweden, Poland, Switzerland, Austria and Portugal.

Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda described the passing of the Directive as a dark day for internet freedom, and said that her party will fight against this law. The report added Reda as saying that the new copyright law threatened the free internet, since algorithms could not distinguish between copyright infringements and legal re-use of content, and upload filters would lead to more frequent blocking.

Google and YouTube said that the EU’s copyright directive would lead to “legal uncertainty and will hurt Europe’s creative and digital economies.” It also called it a digital ghost town.

The Open Knowledge Foundation’s CEO Catherine Stihler said that the vote was a “massive blow for every internet user in Europe” and that MEPs had rejected the pleas of millions of EU citizens, and chosen to “restrict freedom of speech and expression online.” Stihler added, “We now risk the creation of a more closed society at the very time we should be using digital advances to build a more open world where knowledge creates power for the many, not the few.”

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Raegan MacDonald, Mozilla’s head of EU Policy, said that while the organisation expected the directive to ‘return to the political stage’, it would work towards ‘minimising the negative impact of this law on Europeans’ internet experience…’

Frances Moore, CEO of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), said that the industry body was looking forward to these changes being implemented. Moore added that the ‘stay down’ provision for unlicensed content was also a global first.

Robert Ashcroft, CEO of PRS for Music, said that the directive was a “massive step forward” for consumers and creatives, while adding that ‘ordinary people can upload videos and music to platforms.. without being held liable for copyright…’

Also read: The Guardian’s Thank EU for the music – not the grasping tech giants by Björn Ulvaeus (ABBA)

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Written By

I'm a MediaNama alumna from 2015-16 (remember TinyOwl?) now back to cover e-services like food and grocery delivery, app based transport and policies, platforms and media in India.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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