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EU approves much-criticised Copyright Directive into law

Written by Tue 26 Mar 2019

Concerns surrounding user freedom as new EU Copyright Directive passed into law by 348 to 278.

The European Parliament has passed new legislation which aims to overhaul the EU copyright system. A compromise agreed last month that received the backing of key European governments led to a vote which saw 348 members of the house vote in favour of the Directive.

The legislation is controversial. Designed to update copyright law in Europe for the internet age, the Directive has been debated for more than two years, with fierce lobbying from tech giants, copyright holders and digital rights activists.

Despite a last minute proposal to reject Article 13, the two most controversial clauses – Article 11, the ‘link tax’, and Article 13, the ‘upload filter’ – stayed almost entirely intact. The Directive will now be translated into national law across EU member states.

What has been passed?

Article 11 will allow publishers to charge platforms, like that of Google and Facebook, when they display news stories online. The bill aims to levy a tax on the ad revenue generated while utilising the content of traditional news organisations. 

Article 13 requires web giants to automatically filter copyrighted material, unless the material has been licensed. This will mean user-generated content platforms now face a trade-off between stronger enforcement of copyright and user freedom.

“Cooperation between online content service providers and rightholders shall not result in the prevention of the availability of works or other subject matter uploaded by users which do not infringe copyright and related rights,” the legislation states.

Critics argue that this will damage the internet’s openness, through forcing adoption of upload filters and through limiting links to important news stories.

Advocates argue that it will balance the playing field between US tech giants and creators of content, putting power back into the hands of European copyright holders.

Implications for open source

Article 13 makes platforms responsible for users’ possible copyright infringements, so the law could filter out in scale the vast harmless content uploaded on the internet by users.

This, too, could have disastrous effects on the developer community and open source projects. It is possible to copyright lines of code, and critics argue that this is something that policy makers did not consider.

“Originally, the upload filter requirements squarely included software development platforms like GitHub. It didn’t say so directly, but if you read the definition, it included basically any site where users are uploading content with copyrighted works,” Abby Vollmer, Senior Policy Manager at GitHub, told TNW. 

Written by Tue 26 Mar 2019

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Article 13 Copyright EU open source regulation
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