26 March 2019Copyright

EU passes Copyright Directive by 348 votes to 274

The EU Parliament has approved the Copyright Directive amid widespread controversy over its impact on rights holders and internet users.

The new law was passed with 348 votes in favour and 274 votes against, with 24 abstentions.

Articles 15 and 17 (formerly articles 11 and 13) have proven to be particularly controversial, having been met with significant opposition from tech companies, online platforms and internet freedom activists.

Tech companies such as Google have been particularly critical of Article 15, which will only allow search engine results to display “individual words and very short extracts” of content.

Article 17 will make online platforms liable for infringing content hosted on their sites. Critics say this will amount to imposing content filters, sparking concerns that only the largest companies would be able to effectively implement the proposals.

While supporters of the law have said that the provisions will help right holders protect their content, critics fear that smaller companies without the technology to implement filters will suffer.

The European Parliament posted a  Q&A on its website in the wake of the vote, in which it rejected the argument that Article 17 will “kill off start-ups”.

“Platforms set up less than 3 years ago, with an annual turnover lower than EUR 10 million, and average monthly unique visitors lower than 5 million, will be subject to much lighter obligations than the large, established ones”, the release said.

An amendment to delete the proposal was defeated by just five votes.

The directive must now be formally approved by EU leaders at a meeting of the European Council next month.

If signed off next month, EU member states will have until 2021 to transpose the directive’s provisions into national law.

Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament,  welcomed the result, saying that lawmakers had “defended European creativity and jobs”.

Andrus Ansip, vice president of the European Commission for the Digital Single Market, also hailed the vote,  saying that “for the first time Europe has clear common rules on cultural heritage and text and data mining”.

News of the vote has not been welcomed in all quarters.

German Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda, a long term critic of the directive,  said it was a “dark day for internet freedom”.

The  Electronic Frontier Foundation said the parliament had “abandoned common sense” in approving the directive, and accused lawmakers of ignoring the will of protesters against the law.

Protests were held in European cities on Saturday, March 23 in a bid to urge lawmakers to reject the proposals. In Munich, police said that 40,000 people turned out to protest against the law.

The reforms have also attracted the ire of websites and tech companies.

Last week, sister publication Trademarks & Brands Online  reported that online platforms including Wikipedia had gone offline for a day or posted banners on their sites signalling their disapproval of the directive.

Earlier this month, Google warned that the proposals “would be bad for creators and users, who will see online services wrongly block content simply because they need to err on the side of caution and reduce legal risks”.

Google also noted “improvements” to article 11 from earlier drafts of the law, yet said that the final version would still “hurt small and emerging publishers” and limit consumers’ access to “a diversity of news sources”.

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