The UK Government’s Universities and Science Minister has stated that, as a result of Brexit, the UK will not implement the EU Copyright Directive, which was due to be implemented by 7 June 2021.
The EU Copyright Directive remains controversial and had a difficult passage through the EU Parliament before being approved in April 2019.
Two Articles of the Directive in particular have generated a lot of controversy and debate:
Article 11 is 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, puts more onus on websites to enforce copyright laws against content uploaded by users. This would mean online platforms that allow users to post text, images, sounds etc. would need a mechanism to review and filter the content if it infringed the copyright of others.
Critics argued that Article 13 would make it nearly impossible to upload even the tiniest part of a copyrighted work to online platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. However, amendments to the law in 2019 made memes safe "for purposes of quotation, criticism, review, caricature, parody and pastiche".
The UK Government’s stance is likely to be welcomed by creatives and sharing platforms, although some will argue that it reduces the protection of legal rights holders. Either way, the Minister’s stance represents one of the first clear divergences between the UK and EU on a point of commercial law.
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