EU Approves Controversial New Copyright Directive: What Does That Entail?

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On Tuesday 26th March 2019, the European Parliament voted in favor of the controversial new law set to shake the fundamentals of the internet within the union’s borders.

Passed amid widespread protests on both online and offline, the controversial copyright directive will clamp down on content sharing online within two years from now.

It was after years of debates and negotiations on the two controversial parts of the directive; Article 11 and Article 13 which are part of the wider regulations that were approved.

The European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market compels websites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter to take responsibility for any copyright infringing materials shared illegally on their platforms. The Copyright Directive aims to give copyright holders more control over their work, but there’s something else. The directive also provides content sharing platforms such as YouTube the ability to stifle the free flow of information.

Article 11 or ‘the Link Tax’

Article 11 of the Copyright Directive seeks to get news aggregator platforms such as Google News to pay publishers if they use parts of their articles on their websites. The directive states that press publications ‘may obtain fair and proportionate remuneration for the digital use of their press publications by information society service providers.’ The directive goes further to state that ‘mere hyperlinks accompanied by individual words’ has exempted from the Link Tax.

In most cases, hyperlinks are accompanied by more than a couple of words, meaning that most platforms will have no choice but to pay the publishers. Overall, Article 11 of the EU Copyright Directive is vague and confusing.

It’s not clear how much of an article has shared before the platform is required to pay the publisher. This particular segment of the Copyright Directive is open to different interpretations, which is why it attracted so much opposition before the passage of the bill.

Article 13 or ‘the Meme Ban’

Article13 of the Copyright Directive also known as ‘the Meme Ban‘ requires websites that host large amounts of user-generated content to take full responsibility when it comes to taking down copyrighted material shared illegally on their platforms. The article states that ‘online content sharing service providers and right holders shall cooperate in good faith to ensure that unauthorized protected works or other subject matter are not available on their services.’

Article 13 of the Copyright Directive targets sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Current standards require platforms to comply with copyright takedown requests merely.

Under the new copyright directive, these sites will be required to obtain licenses for copyrighted material before its uploaded to the platform. As a result, platforms will have use upload filters to block infringing copyright materials. Opponents argue that the technology required to do that accurately isn’t available yet.

What’s Next?

Critics argue that the directive will achieve the exact opposite of what it’s intended to do. Members opposed to the instruction made several attempts to have the controversial articles removed but failed.

The results of the vote in the EU parliament were 348 in favor against 274 who were against the proposed laws. Thirty-six lawmakers abstained from the vote. MEP Julia Reda, one of the most vocal critics of the directive, expressed her disappointment in a tweet.

According to the EU lawmaker, it’s a dark day for internet freedom. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales argued that the passage of the copyright directive seeks to empower monopolistic practices.

The new law will not help artists but hand over free and open internet to corporate giants. After the bill passed in the EU parliament, it’s now up to the individual member states to approve the vote. After that, countries within the EU will implement the Copyright Directive into national law.