European Parliament Approves Controversial Copyright Law; Google Reacts


The European Parliament on Tuesday voted in favor of a controversial European Union law that seeks fair compensation for copyrighted material, but which has faced opposition over concerns it could be a blow to a free and open Internet. Known as the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, it was passed in a 348-274 vote, receiving both support from the creative industries and criticism from tech giants.

The first overhaul to copyright rules in nearly 20 years, the law was first proposed in 2016 and has been through a series of rewrites, updates and EU-level votes as well as fierce campaigning. At the heart of heated debate were Articles 11 and 13. The former has been dubbed by the opposition as a “link tax,” whereby websites would pay a fee for printing excerpts of news stories or linking to them. The latter requires digital platforms, think YouTube and Facebook, to take active measures to ensure there are no copyright infringements on uploaded content.

A Google spokesperson said the directive passed today is “improved,” but will “still lead to legal uncertainty and will hurt Europe’s creative and digital economies. 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 creative sector, however, praised the steps. Andrew Chowns, CEO of Directors UK, said, “Make no mistake, this is a momentous decision by the European Parliament. This directive — when passed into UK law — will give directors not only the right to fair and proportionate remuneration but it also equips us with the legal means to defend and protect this right, wherever and by whoever their work is used. The days of unfair buyouts are numbered.” (Of course, there is no word on how Brexit would affect this.)

The EU’s Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip and Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel welcomed today’s outcome in a joint statement saying the directive “protects creativity in the digital age and ensures that the EU citizens benefit from wider access to content and new guarantees to fully protect their freedom of expression online.”

Vocal opponent and MEP Julia Reda, who had nicknamed Article 13 #UploadFilters, tweeted her distaste for today’s decision, calling it a “dark day for internet freedom”:

The text adopted today by the European Parliament will need to be formally endorsed by the Council of the European Union in the coming weeks. Once published on the Official Journal of the EU, member states will have 24 months to bring the new rules onto their national books.

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