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Euro-MPs pass controversial Internet copyright law

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Euro-MPs pass controversial Internet copyright law

Internet - Image © aey - Fotolia

(STRASBOURG) - The EU Parliament approved new Internet copyright rules Tuesday, giving Internet platforms liability content users upload, and journalists a share of copyright-related revenue obtained by their news publisher.

EU Member States now need to approve the decision in the coming weeks. If they accept the Parliament text, it will take effect after publication in the official journal and then member states will have 2 years to implement it.

The directive aims to ensure longstanding rights and obligations of copyright law also apply to the internet. YouTube, Facebook and Google News are some of the internet household names that will be most directly affected by this legislation.

MEPs make clear the directive also strives to ensure the Internet remains a space for freedom of expression.

The directive aims to enhance rights holders' chances, notably musicians, performers and script authors, (creatives) as well as news publishers, to negotiate better remuneration deals for the use of their works when these feature on internet platforms. It does this by making internet platforms directly liable for content uploaded to their site and by automatically giving the right to news publishers to negotiate deals on behalf of its journalists for news stories used by news aggregators.

Sharing snippets of news articles is specifically excluded from the scope of the directive, allowing this to continue as before. However, the directive does contain provisions to avoid news aggregators abusing this. The 'snippet' can therefore continue to appear in a Google News newsfeeds, for example, or when an article is shared on Facebook, provided it is "very short".

Uploading protected works for quotation, criticism, review, caricature, parody or pastiche has been protected even more than it was before, ensuring that memes and Gifs will continue to be available and shareable on online platforms.

The text specifies that uploading works to online encyclopedias in a non-commercial way, such as Wikipedia, or open source software platforms, such as GitHub, will automatically be excluded from the scope of this directive. Start-up platforms will be subject to lighter obligations than more established ones.

Authors and performers will be able to claim additional remuneration from the distributor exploiting their rights when the remuneration originally agreed is disproportionately low when compared to the benefits derived by the distributer.

The directive aims to make it easier for copyrighted material to be used freely through text and data mining, thereby removing a significant competitive disadvantage that European researchers currently face. It also stipulates that copyright restrictions will not apply to content used for teaching or illustration.

Finally, the directive also allows copyrighted material to be used free-of-charge to preserve cultural heritage. Out-of-commerce works can be used where no collective management organisation exists that can issue a license.

How the directive changes the status quo

Currently, internet companies have little incentive to sign fair licensing agreements with rights holders, because they are not considered liable for the content that their users upload. They are only obliged to remove infringing content when a rights holder asks them to do so. However, this is cumbersome for rights holders and does not guarantee them a fair revenue. Making internet companies liable will enhance rights holders' chances (notably musicians, performers and script authors, as well as news publishers and journalists) to secure fair licensing agreements, thereby obtaining fairer remuneration for the use of their works exploited digitally.

"This directive is an important step towards correcting a situation which has allowed a few companies to earn huge sums of money without properly remunerating the thousands of creatives and journalists whose work they depend on," said Parliament's rapporteur Axel Voss MEP: "This is a directive which protects people's living, safeguards democracy by defending a diverse media landscape, entrenches freedom of expression, and encourages start-ups and technological development. It helps make the internet ready for the future, a space which benefits everyone, not only a powerful few."

Copyright rules for the Internet - background guide

Further information, European Parliament

Q and A on issues about the copyright directive for the digital single market

Adopted text (26.03.2019)

Procedure file


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