The new EU copyright Directive

What you need to know

On the 12th of September, the members of the European Parliament voted to approve the European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. There were 438 ballots in favor of the Directive and 226 against, bringing it closer to becoming EU legislation. What exactly does this Directive mean, and why is it so important?

The purpose of the Copyright Directive is to address the current imbalance between major online platforms and content creators. Prior to this, it was up to the copyright holders to enforce protection of their content, but the proposed directive seeks to shift the responsibility to online platforms themselves. It would make major platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube more responsible for what their users are uploading. The passing of this Directive is crucial because if it becomes legislation it will have a significant effect on how Europeans communicate and create on the internet and social media platforms in the years to come.

There are two parts to the proposed legislation that are especially controversial: Article 11, dubbed the “link tax” by critics, and Article 13, also dubbed the “meme ban.” The first of these, Article 11, gives publishers of creative content the right to ask for paid licenses when their material is shared by major online platforms. Article 13, however, has been the most debated. This article requires major online platforms to monitor user behavior in order to remove content which infringes copyright. This would very likely lead to the implementation of measures such as ‘upload filters,’ which will scan user content against a database of copyrighted material and remove what the user uploads if it is in violation.

Those in support of the Directive consisted mostly of the center-right, especially the European People’s Party. Led by MEP Axel Voss, the party believes that the passing of the Directive would better protect the rights of artists, publishers, and creators. Supporters believe this will give content creators a fair share of revenue for their work. Big names in the music industry, such as Sir Paul McCartney, spoke out in support of the Directive. In McCartney’s letter to the members of parliament, he claimed that some online platforms were not compensating music creators fairly for their work while exploiting it for their own profit.

On the other hand, critics of the Directive believe the way the EU is proposing to solve this issue of disparity is highly controversial. Many worry that the Directive is too broad at this point, and could affect content such as parodies, remixes, memes, and even links to other websites. The average user might be affected, as what they try to upload on their favorite sites will be screened right away and even taken down. Vocal opponents of the Directive include major Silicon Valley powers such as Google, Facebook, and Apple. The CEO of YouTube, Susan Wojcicki, also spoke out against the Directive, claiming that “article 13 would put the creative economy of creators and artists around the world at risk.”

So, what’s next for the Directive? Although it was approved in September, this only means it passes to the next stage of the legislative process. It now will face further negotiations, known as “trilogues,” which means it will be discussed further between the European Commission, Council, and Parliament. Following this, the Directive will face a final vote in January 2019. If it passes that vote, Member States will then have to implement it into their national legislation.

Geschreven door Alexia Bonné


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