IP Law Daily European Parliament approves controversial Copyright Directive
Tuesday, March 26, 2019

European Parliament approves controversial Copyright Directive

By Cheryl Beise, J.D.

EU Parliament members vote 348 to 274 to adopt a new Copyright Directive, including controversial provision that will hold online platforms liable for displaying unlicensed content.

Members of the European Parliament on March 26 approved the "Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market" by a vote of 348 to 274, the European Commission has announced. Despite heavy opposition and an online public protest effort, a last-minute proposal to remove Article 13, the most disputed provision, was rejected by only five votes. Once published on the Official Journal of the European Union, EU member states will have 24 months to implement the Directive into national law. The final version of the new Copyright Directive is not yet available, but the Commission published a fact sheet about the new Directive.

"This Directive protects creativity in the digital age and ensures that the EU citizens benefit from wider access to content and new guarantees to fully protect their freedom of expression online," Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip and Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel said in a joint statement. "[T]he Directive will improve the position of creators in their negotiations with big platforms which largely benefit from their content. Writers, journalists, singers, musicians and actors will find it easier to negotiate better deals with their publishers or producers."

The Directive has drawn sharp criticism. One of the most controversial aspects of the EU directive is Article 13 (now Article 17) in the proposed Directive, which addresses the display of copyright-protected content by online content-sharing service providers and requires service providers to obtain licensing rights from copyright owners. Critics maintain that this provision would mandate that Internet platforms perform automatic filtering of user-uploaded content. An online petition against the directive obtained over five million signatures, and some websites went dark in protest of the vote.

Also drawing negative reaction from some is Article 11 of the proposed Directive, which would create a new right for press publishers—similar to the right that already exists under European Union law for film producers and record producers—to receive compensation from websites that display excerpts of copyrighted material, potentially including "snippets" that accompany hyperlinks to the material. Critics refer to this provision as a "link tax."

"There’s now little that can stop these provisions from becoming the law of the land across Europe," said Danny O’Brien, International Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has spearheaded efforts to defeat the Directive and its potential importation to other parts of the globe. "It’s theoretically possible that the final text will fail to gain a majority of member states’ approval when the European Council meets later this month, but this would require at least one key country to change its mind." O’Brien predicts protracted legal challenges will ensue.

The battle is not yet over, as it is likely that activists, particularly in certain countries that were not wholly supportive the Directive, such as Germany and Poland, will now focus their efforts on preventing their governments from adopting the Directive into national law.

MainStory: TopStory Copyright TechnologyInternet

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