An intense day at the European Parliament wrapped up on September 12 after the MEPs entered a lengthy voting session to decide on a Copyright Directive that would modernise intellectual property rights and bring them in line with the digital revolution by encouraging platforms like YouTube, owned by Google, to better reward content creators.
The new regulations, however, remain controversial as opponents fear that the plans could destroy user-generated content. The bill’s supporters, however, claim the reforms are necessary to fairly compensate artists.
Article 13 puts the onus on web giants to take measures to ensure that agreements with rights holders for the use of their work are working. This would require all internet platforms to filter content put online by users, which some say would be an excessive restriction on free speech.
The new copyright law also requires online platforms to pay news organisations for the use of their content in what is being dubbed a “link tax”. Web giants will also now have to take measures to ensure that agreements with rights holders for the use of their work are working.
In the case of the latter, critics charge that would require all internet platforms to filter content put online by users, which many believe would be an excessive restriction on free speech.
The bill’s sponsor, Alex Voss of the European People’s Party, said the directive would not lead to any form of online censorship but instead strikes a balance between individual creators and larger online platforms that take advantage of their accounts.
The proposal was approved with 438 votes in favour and 226 against, with 39 abstentions. This vote took place after the adoption of several amendments that were more favourable to major Web companies and advocates of digital freedom.
The European Commission welcomed the adoption of the Parliament’s negotiating position, with the Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip and the Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel saying that discussions can now start on a legislative proposal that would boost the standing of the Digital Single Market strategy.
“Our aim for this reform is to bring tangible benefits for EU citizens, researchers, educators, writers, artists, press, and cultural heritage institutions and to open up the potential for more creativity and content by clarifying the rules and making them fit for the digital world,” Ansip and Gabriel said in a joint statements. “At the same time, we aim to safeguard free speech and ensure that online platforms – including 7,000 European online platforms – can develop new and innovative offers and business models.”
The two Commissioners reiterated that the EU executive stands ready to start working with the European Parliament and the Council of the EU for the swift adoption of the directive, “ideally by the end of 2018”.