Reform or censorship? - EU Copyright Directive heads toward final vote

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Since 2016, the EU has been working on an update to its copyright laws, in order to make them more adequate to the digital age. The proposed directive, which has been the subject of acerbic public debate, aggressive lobbying and massive grassroots campaigns, is approaching the final vote in the plenary of the European Parliament on the 25-28 March.

While supporters of the bill point to its benefits for European artists and journalists, critics have argued that the proposed laws leave ample room for abuse and would result in sweeping censorship. Articles 11 and 13 of the new directive are the most contentious.

Article 11 mandates that aggregation websites, like search engine Google or link sharing platform Reddit, will have to pay licences for each piece of copyrighted content that they link to, if said link is accompanied by a quote from the copyright-protected work. Dubbed the ‘link tax’, Article 11 has been lambasted on the grounds that it is unrealistic to require platforms to acquire licences to every possible work that a user might link to. Furthermore, there is doubt that copyright can even extend to short illustrative quotes. The result could be a decrease in diversity on the Web. Nonetheless, supporters of the measure believe that it will lead to fair remuneration for journalists, whose work is indirectly exploited for profit by Internet platforms with no cost to themselves.



The EU Copyright Directive intends to update EU copyright law for the digital age and fairly reward content producers for their work.

Critics see it as a threat to internet freedom and creativity.

The Directive was passed by the European Parliament on Sep. 12, and is expected to be finalised by the EU in early 2019 after dialogue between the European Commission, the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament (EU Parliament, Sept. 12: Minutes; Texts adopted).



Article 13 would place the liability for breach of copyright on intermediaries and require mandatory upload filters, creating a high risk for sites that distribute user generated content and potentially limiting online collaboration. Article 13 has also been called  a “meme ban”, on the basis that the filtering technologies will block so-called fair dealing uses of copyrighted content such as parody.

A group of internet pioneers including world wide web creator, Tim Berners-Lee, and Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales, signed an open letter in June 2018 stating article 13 would take “an unprecedented step towards the transformation of the internet from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users”.

The Directive has received support from publishers, major music labels, mainstream newspapers and some artists, including Paul McCartney.

Publishing trade groups have made claims of a disinformation campaign being orchestrated by organisations such as Wikipedia and Google. The European Newpaper Publishers Association state that Article 11 specifically excludes uses by individuals and hyperlinks. They criticise what they call a “bad-faith attempt to discredit a proposed directive aiming at re-balancing a digital ecosystem dominated by platforms”.



The EU Copyright Directive

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Tell European lawmakers to fix the Copyright Directive.

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Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market – Wikipedia

The Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market 2016/0280(COD), also known as the EU Copyright Directive, is a controversial proposed European Union directive intended to ensure “a well-functioning marketplace for the exploitation of works and other subject-matter… taking into account in particular digital and cross-border uses of protected content”.



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