EU Approves Controversial Copyright Directive

Posted on April 15, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Amazon, Apple, Cloud, Google with 20 Comments

Today, the European Union official approved a controversial Copyright Directive that could hobble many big US tech firms in the region.

“Today the Council of the European Union gave its green light to the new Copyright Directive which will bring concrete benefits to citizens, the creative sectors, the press, researchers, educators, and cultural heritage institutions,” a European Commission press release notes. “The reform will adapt copyright rules to today’s world, where music streaming services, video-on-demand platforms, news aggregators and user-uploaded-content platforms have become the main gateways to access creative works and press articles.”

The EU believes that its Copyright Directive will “boost high-quality journalism” and “offer better protection for European authors and performers.” But critics say the new rules go too far by requiring infringing tech firms to onerously police the content users post on their websites and then move quickly to get the proper permissions or remove the content.

19 EU members states supported the rules change, but six— Italy, Finland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, and Sweden—opposed it. Belgium, Estonia, and Slovenia abstained.

Google, as perhaps the most obvious target of the Copyright Directive, lobbied heavily against it.

“The directive would not help, but rather hold back, Europe’s creative and digital economy,” Google senior vice president Kent Walker wrote previously of the new rules. “This [directive] hurts small and emerging publishers, and limits consumer access to a diversity of news sources.”

The good news? Nothing moves quickly in the EU. The new rules were first proposed almost three years ago and member states have two years before they need to add the directive into their national legislation.

“With today’s agreement, we are making copyright rules fit for the digital age,” EC president Jean-Claude Juncker said. “Europe will now have clear rules that guarantee fair remuneration for creators, strong rights for users and responsibility for platforms. When it comes to completing Europe’s digital single market, the copyright reform is the missing piece of the puzzle.”

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Comments (20)

20 responses to “EU Approves Controversial Copyright Directive”

  1. wright_is

    Can you have a word with Uncle Leo about this. He keeps making doomsday predictions about having to pull out of Europe. Can you tell him the EU regulation has similar fair-use exemptions for journalism and education that the equivalent US laws have...

    As to the law itself, I'm still in two minds, Google and Facebook have been misreporting it, because they have a lot to lose and it would mean they actually would have to do their job, as opposed to hiding behind safe harbor(?) in the USA. They have tended to spout what is good for them and villanize the law, which has been swept up by Internet users and news sources who get their news from the Dumbnamic Duo. Reporters also often seem to have not actually read the bill itself, but the Google interpretation - I keep hearing the same, incorrect, statements coming from all over the media, which a quick reading of the bill would have corrected.

    That said, the bill is still deeply flawed, but the Google/Facebook FUD has muddied the waters so much that it is hard for most people to see the real problems with the bill.

    • lvthunder

      In reply to wright_is:

      And yet he gets stuff taken down all the time with those exemptions in place. Should he have to hire people who's only job is to fight all the take downs?

    • nerdile

      In reply to wright_is:

      The content platform owner is liable for any copyright infringement that happens on their platform.

      The content platform owner gets to choose what content to take down to limit their liability.

      What part of that is a misrepresentation of the bill?

      • wright_is

        In reply to nerdile:

        The bit where they conviniently ignore the fact of fair use being in the bill to get the mob moving. Given that most commentators are going on about not being able to upload videos, because they show clips of copyrighted material, which is covered under fair use in the USA will be illegal in Europe, even though the EU is proposing the same clause.

        It is like the right-to-be-forgotten. Google spent time fighting it, lost and then beligerently mis-interpreted it when they started dealing with take-downs. It was only after they were taken back in front of the courts that they started doing the job properly, but job done, most people thought rtbf was overkill and censoring of the Internet...

  2. karlinhigh

    "Move quickly to get the proper permissions" An oxymoron, perhaps?

    One time I tried getting permissions from Harper Collins. The process was like this: Download the form from our website, fill out all the questions about everything you plan on doing with the content and how much money you expect to make, then postal-mail it to their place in New York City. Then allow SIX MONTHS for response; making phone calls before that time will only delay things.

    I think one of the best things rights-holders could do to minimize infringement would be making permissions as easy to get as possible. "Want to post our content online somehow? Pay us X and paste your intended link here."

    Instead, we have "The Missing 20th Century: How Copyright Protection Makes Books Vanish" by The Atlantic.

    Because of the strange distortions of copyright protection, there are twice as many newly published books available on Amazon from 1850 as there are from 1950.

  3. MikeGalos

    Gee, how surprising that Google has been lobbying against making it a crime to take other people's intellectual property and then undercut them and monetize it. That's kind of their whole business model.

    • Tony Barrett

      In reply to MikeGalos:

      Gee. Why not turn this into a 'I hate Google' rant. You normally do at every opportunity. This ruling is actually yet another draconian law that will stifle and control what people can say and post online. It certainly won't 'protect' anyone!

  4. ssuboor

    There is nothing wrong with the new law. If I, as a reader of a newspaper, want a letter published in the next issue of a newspaper, I couldn't just publish, word-for-word, another person's copy-righted material? The newspaper would reject that. So the responsibility is on the organization that is allowing a user to publish copy-righted material. That is what this law covers. Like the law says, memes, parodies, criticisms and short excerpts and quotes are not affected by it. Also, as an academic rule, if you mention someone else's work, in their own words, in your paper, please use proper citation to give them credit.

    • lvthunder

      In reply to ssuboor:

      And how are these big tech companies supposed to enforce that? How do they know that picture I posted on Facebook belongs to me and not someone else?

      • Greg Green

        In reply to lvthunder:

        The same way other (old school) publishers do. They’ve been doing it for more than a century.

      • MikeGalos

        In reply to lvthunder:

        Oddly, they're quite capable of removing other items that violate their "community standards" quickly and with fairly competent processes for appeal.

        That they claim it would be a burden only when the issue is something that costs them revenue demonstrates their insincerity on this issue.

    • warren

      In reply to ssuboor:

      So on one side of the issue, we have Tim Berners-Lee (creator of the WWW), Mitchell Baker (CEO of Mozilla), Mitch Kapor (creator of Lotus 1-2-3), Alan Kay (inventor of object-oriented programming), Jimmy Wales (creator of Wikipedia), Miguel de Icaza (founder of GNOME and Mono), Vint Cerf (inventor of TCP/IP), and a long, long, long list of other extremely knowledgeable people who have contributed to the construction and popularization of the Internet as we know it. They have all expressed extreme concern about the new EU Copyright Directive.

      On other side of the issue, we have "ssuboor", an anonymous chickenshit that created an account on just today solely for the purposes of posting "There is nothing wrong with the new law".

      Geeee, whose opinion should I take seriously?

      I wonder.

  5. fishnet37222

    My main issue with the directive is that it makes platforms responsible for the actions of their users. The platforms should only be responsible for whatever the platforms themselves do. The users should be responsible for their own actions.

  6. bart

    Weird. Google having to take responsibility now for what is happening on its own platform.

    Ah well... ?

    • lvthunder

      In reply to Bart:

      So how is Google suppose to know who owns the copyright to what video? I'm not necessarily talking about the big budget stuff, but like the stuff I create. How do they know it's mine and not someone else's?

      • wright_is

        In reply to lvthunder:

        They have had the last 2 decades to work that out. It is what they should have done from the beginning, but they worked out it was more cost effective to earn money on illegal video and hire lawyers and lobbyists to keep the copyright holders at bay, in America.

        In Germany they went in the other direction. GEMA, which is responsible for monitoring the illegal use of copyrighted material here, sent Google take-downs for a lot of music videos. Instead of doing something sensible, like handling with GEMA for the rights to show the videos, they just pre-emtively blocked most music videos, with text appearing saying, in essence "we haven't asked GEMA for a license for this video and it might break copyright rules, so we took it down ourselves." It was only after they were ridiculed in the press that things changed.

        Unfortunately, Google has a big "mouth" and uses it to misrepresent things to try and get things to work in their favour. Sometimes it backfires and they have to do things properly.

  7. kjb434

    Remember, always follow the money. The EU member nations has always been hell bent on making US tech firms pay up.

    This directive is not an EU law, but authorization for member nations to enforce these rules they way they see fit. Each country is now free to interpret the directive to extort the money they want.

    The big boys will be able to pay up and set up systems to keep operating. Smaller players will suffer and be weeded out.

    Discussion of copyright and the minutia is a waste of time.