Controversial Copyright Backed By MEPs

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The European Parliament has given its backing to new copyright rules, including the controversial Article 13, (opposed by many big tech companies) which could now change the way that Europe’s creative and digital industries work.

European Parliament Vote

The new copyright rules are encapsulated in the EU Copyright Directive which, having gone through many revisions was finally backed by 348 MEPs, with 278 voting against it.  It will now be up to EU member states (likely to soon exclude the UK) to approve the EP’s decision and if so, member states will still have two years to implement it.

Article 11 and Article 13

Most of the opposition and argument around the EU Copyright Directive relate to article 11 and 13.

Article 11 states that search engines and news aggregate platforms should pay to use links from news websites.

Article 13 applies to services that have been available in the EU for more than three years or have an annual turnover of more than £8.8m.  Article 13 shifts the burden of responsibility so that big tech companies rather than users will have to bear the responsibility for ANY content that is posted on their platforms that doesn’t have a copyright licence e.g. television programmes, movies, and music, and may even cover YouTube, Dailymotion, Soundcloud and more.  So far, the main worry has been about music but this new change in the law has widened the scope.  The new directive says that tech companies will need to make “best efforts” to get permission from the copyright holder, make sure that material specified by rights holders is not made available, and act quickly to remove any infringing material.


The main objections that have been voiced about the Directive, and particularly these two sections are that:

  • Companies that want to use links from news websites will face an increase in their costs and extra red tape.
  • Big tech companies will find it incredibly difficult and potentially very costly and time-consuming to try and police all content that’s uploaded on their platforms with regards to copyright status.  This may mean that costly and complicated filters may need to be applied to any content before it is uploaded.  There are also worries that the algorithms used to make filters could make mistakes and may take down content that’s being legitimately used.
  • Some argue that artists are already paid fairly under the current system.
  • Freedom groups have expressed concerns that not being able to share certain links, and platforms having to filter content could lead to a more closed society, instead of using digital advances to build a more open world where knowledge can create power for the many and not just the few.
  • Some see Article 13 as being little more than a set of ideals and aims that lacks legal detail and offers little guidance on what steps will be enough to comply.

Redresses Balance

EU lawmakers say that the Directive was intended to protect the livelihoods of those artists, musicians and others whose work is copyrighted so they can get paid because that work has been shared widely in the past without its creators being properly paid.


Exemptions to the directive include:

  • The sharing of memes and GIFs (exempted from Article 11).
  • Non-profit online encyclopaedias, open source software development platforms, cloud storage services, online marketplaces and communication services (exempted from Article 13).

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For ordinary web users, this new change in European laws means that they can upload videos and music to platforms like YouTube without being held liable for copyright.  For journalist and creatives, this law change also looks on the surface to be good news because it means that they may be properly remunerated by big companies, thereby redressing the power balance.

For businesses that have an online platform and/or need to share links and content, this law change could increase costs, increase risks (vulnerability to fines etc), and could make things a lot more complicated e.g. with the need to add filters and checks to any content and link sharing.

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