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MEPs' copyright changes put pressure on tech giants

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MEPs' copyright changes put pressure on tech giants

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(STRASBOURG) - Internet tech giants including Google and Facebook could be made to monitor, filter and block internet uploads under amendments to the draft Copyright Directive approved by the EU Parliament Wednesday.

At their plenary session, MEPs adopted amendments to the Commission's draft EU Copyright Directive following from their previous rejection, adding safeguards to protect small firms and freedom of expression.

The purpose of the directive on copyright in the digital single market is to adapt EU copyright legislation to the digital environment, which is quickly changing the way copyright-protected works and content are created, produced, distributed and exploited in the European Union.

Many of Parliament's changes to the Commission's original proposal aim to make certain that artists, notably musicians, performers and script authors, as well as news publishers and journalists, are paid for their work when it is used by sharing platforms such as YouTube or Facebook, and news aggregators such as Google News.

Following the vote, rapporteur Axel Voss said "I am very glad that despite the very strong lobbying campaign by the internet giants, there is now a majority in the full house backing the need to protect the principle of fair pay for European creatives.

There has been much heated debate around this directive and I believe that Parliament has listened carefully to the concerns raised. Thus, we have addressed concerns raised about innovation by excluding small and micro platforms or aggregators from the scope.

I am convinced that once the dust has settled, the internet will be as free as it is today, creators and journalists will be earning a fairer share of the revenues generated by their works, and we will be wondering what all the fuss was about."

Parliament's position toughens the Commission's proposed plans to make online platforms and aggregators liable for copyright infringements. This would also apply to snippets, where only a small part of a news publisher's text is displayed. In practice, this liability requires these parties to pay right holders for copyrighted material that they make available. Parliament's text also specifically requires that journalists themselves, and not just their publishing houses, benefit from remuneration stemming from this liability requirement.

At the same time, in an attempt to encourage start-ups and innovation, the text now exempts small and micro platforms from the directive.

The text includes provisions to ensure that copyright law is observed online without unfairly hampering the freedom of expression that has come to define the internet.

Thus, merely sharing hyperlinks to articles, together with "individual words" to describe them, will be free of copyright constraints.

Any action taken by platforms to check that uploads do not breach copyright rules must be designed in such a way as to avoid catching "non-infringing works". These platforms will moreover be required to establish rapid redress systems (operated by the platform's staff, not algorithms) through which complaints can be lodged when an upload is wrongly taken down.

The text specifies that uploading to online encyclopaedias in a non-commercial way, such as Wikipedia, or open source software platforms, such as GitHub, will automatically be excluded from the requirement to comply with copyright rules.

Parliament's text strengthens the negotiating rights of authors and performers, by enabling them to "claim" additional remuneration from the party exploiting their rights when the remuneration originally agreed is "disproportionately" low compared to the benefits derived.

The text adds that these benefits should include "indirect revenues". It would also empower authors and performers to revoke or terminate the exclusivity of an exploitation licence for their work if the party holding the exploitation rights is deemed not to be exercising this right.

The amendments were not universally welcomed. "Negotiations will start between the Parliament and the EU Council," said (EDRi) for European Digital Rights: "a proposal that *coerces* internet companies into monitoring, filtering and blocking our uploads versus one that more *explicitly forces* internet companies into monitoring, filtering and blocking our uploads."

The result will be a cocktail of both poisons, to be put to a final vote just a few short months before the 2019 European Parliament elections," said Diego Naranjo, EDRi Senior Policy Analyst.

EDRi's concern was "the aftermath of a law that regulates all internet companies in Europe as if they were Google and Facebook is clear: an internet in Europe where only Google and Facebook can survive."

Further information, European Parliament

Adopted text will be available here (click on 12/09/2018)


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