Controversial changes to EU copyright law put on hold by EU parliament

The EU Parliament has side-lined controversial legislation intended to modernise EU copyright law. The proposed Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market 2016/0280(COD) – also known as the EU Copyright Directive - is part of a bundle of proposed directives, intended to harmonise aspects of the European Union copyright law and support the Digital Single Market. The EU Copyright Directive contains two provisions which have proved to be particularly controversial  - Articles 11 and 13.

Article 11

Article 11 extends the 2001 Copyright Directive to grant publishers direct copyright over "online use of their press publications by information society service providers".  Under current EU law publishers rely on authors assigning copyright to them and must prove rights ownership for each individual work. This new right for publishers would apply for 20 years after publication. 

Article 11 is intended to protect newspapers and other outlets from having their material exploited online without payment, by requiring anyone using snippets of journalistic online content to obtain a license from the publisher. However, it has been branded a "link tax" by opponents who fear it could lead to problems with sentence fragments being used to link to other news outlets.

Article 13

Article 13 places a greater responsibility on websites to enforce copyright laws, and would mean that internet platforms hosting “large amounts” of user-uploaded content must monitor user behaviour and filter their contributions to identify and prevent copyright infringement. The most common way to do this is by using an automated copyright filter system, which are expensive to develop.

Article 13 is intended to strengthen the music industry in negotiations with content providers such as YouTube. The move is supported by a number of high profile artists who were among 1,300 musicians who urged politicians adopt Article 13 to prevent users illegally uploading their music. Critics though are concerned that given the high development costs of content monitoring technology, this will be outsourced to a small number of existing providers based in the USA, strengthening their market position and giving them direct access to the behaviour of all EU users of content platforms. There is also concern that copyright filters could effectively ban things like memes and remixes which use some copyrighted material.

Future Progress

In a vote which was held on the 5th July, the EU Parliament decided against opening discussions with EU member countries on the EU Copyright Directive, postponing a final decision. This will give the European Parliament more time to deliberate this highly disputed legislation. Another decision will be taken in September.

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