EU approves controversial Copyright Directive

EU approves controversial Copyright Directive

The European Parliament has given its final approval to the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. This dreaded and controversial legislative package is designed to update Europe's copyright laws for the Internet age.

Members of Parliament voted with the following results: 348 in favor and 274 against. There was a last-minute proposal to remove the most controversial clause in the directive: Article 13, also known as the upload filter. However, this proposal was rejected by only 5 votes. The directive will now be sent to the member states of the European Union, which will have 24 months to integrate it as part of their own national legislation.

The Copyright Directive has been in the making for more than two years, and has been the subject of fierce controversy, involving technology giants, copyright owners and digital rights activists.

Julia Reda, an MEP from the German Pirate Party who had shown great resistance to the directive, said it was "a very dark day for freedom on the net". On the other hand, Andrus Ansip, Vice-President of the European Commission and a great supporter of the project, said that "a big step forward" has been taken in the task of unifying the European digital market and protecting "online creativity".

There are details that will have to be decided by the respective EU member states, but the most certain is that this new legislation will have a gigantic impact on the functioning of the network in Europe and beyond. As an example, as we have already seen with the GDPR, European law can influence US policies.

EU flaggs hero
Is the network as we know it finished? / © Metro

Proponents of the directive say it will serve to balance forces between North American technology giants and European content creators by giving copyright owners the option to decide how the network's various platforms will distribute their content. However, critics argue that the law is imprecise and lacks proper planning, so it could end up becoming a restriction on content distribution, slowing innovation and hampering the right to free expression.

The new rules: the "link tax" and the "upload filter".

Despite their resistance, the most controversial clauses of the new directive remain intact. The clauses in question are Article 11, also known as the "link tax", and Article 13, also known as the "upstream filter".

Article 11 allows publishers to charge platforms such as Google News if they show parts of their new content. Article 13 (renamed Article 17 in the most recent version of the Directive) imposes new tasks on platforms such as YouTube to prevent users from uploading material protected by copyright law.

In both cases, critical voices claim that these well-intentioned laws will create problems. For example: Article 13 could lead to the introduction of "upload filters" that will read all user content before they are online, to remove all copyright-protected elements. The law does not expressly mention such filters, but their appearance would be inevitable if the upload platforms do not want to be exposed to fines and other penalties.

While the advocates of the Directive reduce the fiercest criticisms of Article 13 to mere exaggerations, the experts assume that the filters to be used could present errors or be ineffective. In addition, given the high cost of implementing the necessary technologies, the new legislation could have a diametrically opposite effect to that planned: accidentally entrenching the dominance of big tech in digital space.

What is certain is that the effect that the new directive will have is very difficult to predict. The law focuses especially on services such as Google Search and Google News, which display snippets or summaries of content. Google, for its part, has stated that if the media charge licenses for its material, it will have to remove that content from the search results and ultimately close Google News.

Critics accuse Google of using fear as a weapon, circulating screenshots like the one below. But the fact is that the Copyright Directive has provoked resistance from many parts of the population: in recent weeks, more than 100 000 people have protested against its approval, and more than 5 million have signed a petition demanding the removal of Article 13. Recently, pages like Reddit, Wikipedia and PornHub have closed to protest against the legislation.

2019 03 26 Google News
Google News without news? Could happen as a result of the new directive. / © Google

It remains to be seen how policy is developed based on the implementation of these new laws. What do you think? Are we facing the end of the net as we know it? Are we going to have to record every single thing we want to upload? Will it be the end of social networks and meme-sharing? 

Source: The Verge

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