Controversial New EU Copyright Rules Pass Another Legal Hurdle

Posted on March 26, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud with 42 Comments

The European Parliament has given its final approval to the Copyright Directive, a new set of laws aimed at big U.S tech firms that “scrape” data from content creators without their permission.

“The directive introduces mandatory exceptions to copyright for the purposes of text and data mining, online teaching activities and the preservation and online dissemination of cultural heritage,” a European Council press release from February explains. “The directive introduces a new right for press publishers for the digital use of their press publications. Authors of works incorporated in the press publication in question will be entitled to a share of the press publisher’s revenue deriving from this new right.”

The Copyright Directive contains two controversial articles, both of which survived intense scrutiny and criticism during its gestation.

The first, Article 11, is often referred to as the link tax because it allows publishes to charge companies that scrape their content to use as snippets in search results or in news aggregations services. The second, Article 17, is called the upload filter and it makes new content policing requirements of sites like YouTube that allow users to post their own content.

Not unexpectedly, passage of the Copyright Directive was met with harsh criticism by certain companies and organizations.

“The directive will lead to legal uncertainty and will hurt Europe’s creative and digital economies,” a Google statement reads. “The details matter, and we look forward to working with policy makers, publishers, creators and rights holders.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation was even more critical, noting that the EU has “abandoned common sense.”

“The Directive is written so that any owner of copyrighted material can demand satisfaction from an Internet service, and we’ve already seen that the rightsholders are by no means united on what Big Tech should be doing,” the EFF explains. “Whatever Internet companies and organizations do to comply with twenty-seven or more national laws – from dropping links to European news sites entirely, to upping their already over-sensitive filtering systems, or seeking to strike deals with key media conglomerates – will be challenged by one rightsholder faction or another.”

The good news? The articles in the Copyright Directive aren’t laws yet. As the EFF explains, it’s still possible that some majority of EU member states will fail to approve the directive when they vote later this month. And activists are working to help make that happen.

But even if the directive passes muster with the European Council, it will still require a lot of time for them to become laws because each will need to be transposed into every member state’s national laws. And they have until 2021 to do so. The problem is that some countries that enthusiastically support the directive will try to push the changes through more quickly.

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