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MEPS vote in favour of modified EU copyright law

12 September 2018

European Parliament votes for modified copyright bill which promises to penalise platforms such as Facebook and YouTube whilst also protecting freedom of expression for smaller platforms.

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On 20 June 2018, the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) voted to proceed with a bill on copyright - the EU Copyright Directive in the digital single market. The Bill was then put forward for vote by the rest of the EU Parliament.

Paul McCartney, Annie Lennox and Placido Domingo were among 1,300 musicians who wanted the law changed because they believe sites such as YouTube and Facebook cheat musicians out of royalties because users can illegally upload their music.

Many felt the Bill went too far and would have needlessly censored the web. A petition against the reforms led by critical MEPs called Save Your Internet gathered over 700,000 signatures.

Article 13 of the Bill, in its original form, would require web platforms provided by Google, Microsoft, Wikipedia and internet companies to install copyright filters on material posted – basically any website that allows users to post text, images, sounds or code would need a way to assess and filter content. This could prevent people from seeing important information if these automatic filters block them for reasons of copyright.

Article 11 of the Bill would have required web publishers, such as Disability Rights UK and other charities, to pay a 'link tax' when posting snippets of news from other outlets, which may hinder our ability to link to key reports and news items.

In July 2018, MEPs voted by a margin of 40 to delay implementation of a controversial new copyright law till the autumn.

The EU Parliament has, today, voted in favour of the new Directive, but added safeguards to protect small firms and freedom of expression.

What's now in the EU Copyright Directive?

Tech giants to share revenue with artists and journalists: Musicians, performers and script authors, as well as news publishers and journalists, must be paid for their work when it is used by sharing platforms such as YouTube or Facebook, and news aggregators such as Google News.

Fair pay for artists and journalists while encouraging start-ups: Online platforms and aggregators will be liable to pay journalists and/or their publishing houses for publishing even a small part of their text. Small and micro platforms will be exempt from the directive – no definition yet. Uploading to online encyclopaedias in a non-commercial way, such as Wikipedia, or open source software platforms, such as GitHub, will automatically be excluded from the requirement to comply with copyright rules.

Protecting freedom of expression: Sharing hyperlinks to articles, together with “individual words” to describe them, will be free of copyright constraints.

Any action taken by platforms to check that uploads do not breach copyright rules must be designed in such a way as to avoid catching “non-infringing works”. These platforms will moreover be required to establish rapid redress systems (operated by the platform’s staff, not algorithms) through which complaints can be lodged when an upload is wrongly taken down.

What next?

The European Commission, Parliament and Council will now enter trilogue discussions - informal tripartite meetings attended by representatives of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission - in order to adopt a definitive text which will then be voted again at Parliament.

After that, it will be entered into law by individual member states.