Copyright reform backed by EU governments

EPA-EFE//OLIVIER HOSLET

Copyright reform backed by EU governments


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The EU’s 28 members have backed the bloc’s copyright rules that would force Google and Facebook to compensate publishers, while copyrighted content will now have to be filleted by YouTube or Instagram.

A majority of EU diplomats agreed to the revision, while Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Poland refused to support the agreement. Only two EU members abstained.

Negotiators from across the bloc, along with the European Parliament and the European Commission, sealed an agreement last week in Strasbourg after long talks that took nearly two years to negotiate.

The crux of the changes proposed by the European Commission aimed to protect the Union’s cultural heritage and ensure a fair remuneration for publishers, broadcast media and artists.

Romania, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said in a statement that the copyright agreement was approved by the European Council, while the individual member states that did not agree to the proposals argued that the changes can hinder innovation and affect the Union’s competitiveness in the digital market.

“We regret that the Directive does not strike the right balance between the protection of rights holders and the interests of EU citizens and companies,” these countries said in a joint statement, adding that “the objectives of the Directive was to enhance the proper functioning of the internal market and to stimulate innovation, creativity, investment, and production of new content, also in the digital environment,” and to keep supporting these objectives.

“Digital technologies have radically changed the way content is produced, distributed and accessed. The legislative framework needs to reflect and guide these changes,” the statement adds, but in their view “the final text of the Directive fails to deliver adequately on the above- mentioned aims. We believe that the Directive, in its current form, is a step back for the Digital Single Market rather than a step forward”.

In addition to the above, the member states that were set to be against the reform, feel that “the Directive lacks legal clarity and will lead to legal uncertainty for many stakeholders concerned and may encroach upon EU citizens’ rights”.

The next stage in the process is a vote in European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs, which will be followed by a vote in the Parliament in either March or early April to make the changes to the law.

Based on the review, Google and other online platforms will sign licensing agreements with rights holders such as musicians, artists, writers, publishers, and journalists to make the product of their work usable online.

The platforms will be forced to install filters that will prevent users from uploading copyrighted material. The industry’s feedback is controversial with Google, who lobbied hard over the last two years, threatening that it could withdraw Google News products from Europe.

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