Copyright law has been in the spotlight over the past few months, as musicians such as Paul McCartney, Annie Lennox and David Guetta - as well as other rights holders - clashed with free internet campaigners, including Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia. It was all over a new Copyright Directive proposed by the EU Commission to overhaul and modernise copyright law for the digital age.
Two Articles of the Directive in particular generated a lot of controversy and debate:
Article 11 was intended to protect the original authors of news and other content from providers like Google and Facebook using their material without any payment. However, this was branded as a ‘link tax’ by free internet campaigners and Jimmy Wales commented that would effectively mean the end of Wikipedia and other free content providers.
Article 13, meanwhile, put more onus on websites to enforce copyright laws against content uploaded by users. This would have meant any online platform that allowed users to post text, images, sounds etc. would need a mechanism to review and filter the content if it infringed the copyright of others. However, it was argued that content filters and moderation tools would be prohibitively expensive for most providers (YouTube uses one that costs £53million) and most would probably apply broad rules and bans that would block legitimate content (e.g. memes and remixes which do not breach copyright law).
There was a good deal of lobbying from both sides whilst the EU Commission consulted on the proposals but the Directive was ultimately approved by the Commission with the two controversial provisions still intact. The Directive went to the EU Parliament for a vote on Thursday 12 July and MEPs decided that the changes needed more debate. The Directive was rejected by 318 votes to 278.
The Directive will now go back to the EU Commission, which will have to take it back to the drawing board. It will go back in front of MEPs in the EU Parliament in September. Until then, it’s business as usual for online content providers.
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