Crucial vote today could transform EU copyright rules
UPDATED 12.32: The European Parliament’s committee on legal affairs (JURI) has voted to approve a bitterly controversial copyright directive.
One of the most controversial elements in the directive, Article 13, requires sites to filter all submissions against a database of copyrighted works—creating what NGO the Electronic Frontier Foundation refers to as a “censorship machine” of algorithmic filters.
The move can still be blocked by the European Parliament – and local implementation may end up being heavily watered down. Article 13 specifies that online platforms are directly liable for copyright infringement for uploads by their users in what law firm Hogan Lovells describes as a “complex and potentially onerous set of obligations”.
STARTS – Today the European Parliament will vote on a high-impact copyright directive that could have huge implications for both EU internet users and companies globally.
The proposed legislation on Copyright In The Digital Single Market has been condemned in some quarters as likely to stifle online competition and innovation.
How we got to today’s Vote
The bill is an update to the European Copyright Directive, which was enacted in 2001 and has found to be inadequate in dealing with digital transformation and the changing ways users and publishers interact with each other.
Pirate party MEP Julia Reda in 2015 highlighted the issues with the outdated EU copyright law, but her proposals were rejected.
The issue then reappeared when a draft EU Commission working document was leaked in 2016.
The proposal being voted on today is the “grandchild” of that leaked document, it of course has seen significant changes as it passed through EU working committees and has been amended several times by in the lead up to today’s vote.
Here are the key things you need to know.
The Link Tax is a term given to Article 11 of the proposal, which aims to tackle unfair use of published content taken from press and news websites. If it is passed then whenever a websites uses a link and or a short quotation from a news article, they would have to pay the publisher of this article a fee.
After amendment by German MEP Axel Voss, it now says that publishers have: “an inalienable right to obtain an fair and proportionate remuneration for such uses.”
This means that news organisations can no longer give free consent to the use of their content. A platform that links with a short snippet of text as an explainer automatically will owe the publisher. (Spain brought in a similar law which resulted in Google shutting down Google News in Spain.)
Article 13 deals with the European Commission’s upload filter proposal and sees greater copyright regulation onuses put on websites that facilitate any type of content upload from its users.
This means that websites need to have licensing agreements with content creators if they are to have it on their site. However, it would be nearly impossible to get a licences from every right holder individually and there is currently no catch all organisation that represents all the worlds’ copyrighted content.
The EU proposal itself puts forward its solution which is: “The use of effective content recognition technologies,” this amounts to an upload filtering system that scans for copyrighted content.
If this is made law in Europe then businesses with an upload capability on their internet offering are responsible for what their users upload, they will have to install a content filtration system to ensure they are consistently compliant and host no copyright infringements.
Opposition to the proposal
In an open letter to the President of the EU Jean-Claude Juncker a group who self-describe themselves as the Internet’s original architects and pioneers state that Article 13 (upload filter) is: “an imminent threat to the future of this global network.”
The letter signed by Tim Berners-Lee, Vint Cerf and a host of other internet architects state: “Article 13 takes an unprecedented step towards the transformation of the Internet from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users.”
Also voicing their opposition The Civil Liberties Union for Europe and European Digital Rights have set out their opposition to Article 13 in an open letter to the EU.
They note in it that: “Article 13 appears to provoke such legal uncertainty that online services will have no other option than to monitor, filter and block EU citizens’ communications.”
They are calling for the deletion of Article 13 from the proposal.
Cost to your Business
It is still unclear what the far reaching affect that this proposal will have if it is passed as is today.
However one cost is clear and was also highlighted in the Open light by the Internet architects: “The cost of putting in place the necessary automatic filtering technologies will be expensive and burdensome, and yet those technologies have still not developed to a point where their reliability can be guaranteed.”
This burden will fall on SME’s to get in line as larger, as the proposal calls them, ‘society service providers’ such as YouTube and Facebook already have in place advanced filtering technology that has been developed over many years.