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September 12, 2018updated 13 Sep 2018 9:58am

Hugely Contentious European Copyright Directive Voted Through

Welcomed by British creatives, slammed by British tech

By CBR Staff Writer

The European Parliament has voted in favour of the bitterly contentious Copyright Directive, with 438 in favour of the reforms against 226 against, with 39 abstentions.

One of the most controversial elements in the directive, Article 13, requires sites to filter all submissions against a database of copyrighted works—creating what the Electronic Frontier Foundation refers to as a “censorship machine” of algorithmic filters.

The European Commission argues that only large repeat offenders will be tackled.

Article 11, meanwhile, aims to tackle unfair use of published content taken from press and news websites. If it is passed then whenever a websites uses a link and or a short quotation from a news article, they would have to pay the publisher of this article a fee.

What’s Next?

The Directive will now go to three-way negotiations between the Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of the EU.

While the debate has taken on the overtones of one in which a giant bureaucracy is aiming to cripple creative expression of the underdog by banning memes and mashups, the European Commission argues it has has the opposite intent and wants strengthen the position of right holders in their negotiations with online platforms.

In one factsheet, it argues that: “We aim to reinforce the position of rights holders to negotiate and be remunerated for the use of their content on online platforms. Such platforms will have an obligation to deploy effective means such as technology to automatically detect songs or audiovisual works which rights holders have identified and agreed with the platforms either to authorise or remove.”

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The vote was welcomed by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors as a “brilliant day and a tremendous achievement”.

Helen Smith, the executive chairman of IMPALA, the association for European independent music companies said: “This is a great day for Europe’s creators. The Parliament has sent a clear message that copyright needs to be modernised to clarify obligations of platforms with regard to the creative works they distribute.”

Copyright Directive: “Hugely Disappointing”

Others were less keen.

Giles Derrington, head of policy at techUK, said: Today’s vote on the Copyright directive is hugely disappointing and represents a setback for an innovation-led European economy. The proposals adopted by the European Parliament today will lead to significant additional burdens on companies seeking to serve the European market.”

He added: “Requirements for platforms to filter all user uploaded content will likely result in a reduced user experience and the over-removal of legitimate content. The creation of a new neighbouring right for press publishers will make sharing news articles online more difficult, making it harder for the public to find good quality journalism online.

“Crude and Ineffective”

Mozilla was even more frank. The open source company’s Head of EU Public Policy, Raegan MacDonald said: “Parliamentarians have given a green light to new rules that will compel online services to implement blanket upload filters, a crude and ineffective measure that could well spell an end to the rich creative fabric of memes, mashups, and GIFs that make internet culture so great. The Parliament’s vote also endorses a ‘link tax’ that will undermine access to knowledge and the sharing of information in Europe.”

We recognise the efforts of many MEPs who attempted to find workable solutions that would have rectified some of the grave shortcomings in this proposal. Sadly, the majority dismissed those constructive solutions, and the open internet that we’ve taken for granted the last 20 years is set to turn into something very different in Europe.”

TechUK’s Giles Derrington added: “To be clear, the UK leaving the European Union will not protect UK businesses from these new requirements. Any UK business seeking to serve the EU market will have to comply with the directive which, given the size and importance of the EU market to UK businesses, will be a significant barrier to market entry.”


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