In a move that could potentially change the entire nature of the internet, the European Parliament chose to back a law surrounded by controversy. This law, designated as the ‘Copyright Directive’ will hold tech businesses accountable for materials which are posted on their website without gaining the necessary copyright permission.
There are many – like creators and musicians – who suggest that the new law will help to fairly compensate artists for their work. However, others suggest that it will only serve as a way to destroy content created by users.
The Copyright Directive had the backing of 348 MEPs, while 278 were against the proposed law. The last time copyright laws were amended was nearly 20 years ago, in 2001, which is a key reason why the current law went through many revisions prior to reaching its current form.
The decision now has to be approved by member states. If the decision moves forward, the EU has two years in which it will implement the law before it is officially on the books.
Two clauses within the Copyright Directive are the source of most of the controversy. These are Articles 11 and 13.
Article 11 says that news aggregate sites and search engines must pay to use links found on news sites. Article 13 will hold large tech businesses accountable for any content posted that does not have the proper copyright licenses. As a result, companies will have to use filters to sort content prior to uploading it.
It appears, however, that memes are excluded from the Copyright Directive based on statements from the European Parliament. Unfortunately, it is not clear how businesses are expected to enforce such a rule by using a blanket filter.
Steps in the Right Direction?
PRS for Music chief executive Robert Ashcroft suggested the law is “a massive step forward” for both creatives and consumers. Mr. Ashcroft went on to state that, “It’s about making sure that ordinary people can upload video and music to platforms like YouTube without being held liable for copyright – that responsibility will henceforth be transferred to the platforms.”
However, there are some groups that don’t agree with this viewpoint. The Open Knowledge International group labeled it as a “massive blow” for the online community.
Catherine Stihler, chief executive of Open Knowledge International, said that “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.”
Even though the Copyright Directive was approved, Google has gone on record stating that there are still “legal uncertainties” that need to be addressed. “The details matter and we look forward to working with policy-makers, publishers, creators, and rights holders, as EU member states move to implement these new rules,” the technology giant stated.
Others, like Kathy Berry, suggest that more informaiton is needed around how the EU plans on enforcing Article 13. The Linklaters senior layer said that “while Article 13 may have noble aims, in its current form it functions as little more than a set of ideals, with very little guidance on exactly which service providers will be caught by it or what steps will be sufficient to comply.”
A third response, from Axel Voss, a European Parliament Rapporteur, states that the law is designed in a manner that will help protect the livelihoods of people.
“This directive is an important step towards correcting a situation which has allowed a few companies to earn huge sums of money without properly remunerating the thousands of creatives and journalists whose work they depend on,” Mr. Voss stated. “It helps the internet ready for the future, a space which benefits everyone, not only a powerful few.”