The European Parliament has given its final approval to the bloc’s Copyright Directive after years of debating and intense lobbying from both sides of creators and the tech giants.
The controversial legislative package, which was designed to update copyright laws in Europe for the internet age, was given the final green light in Strasbourg’s European Parliament plenary by a 348 to 274 vote.
A last-minute amendment aimed at removing the law’s most controversial clauses – Articles 13 and 17 – was narrowly rejected by just five MEP votes. The directive will now have to be transposed by the EU’s national parliaments for it to come into effect.
Advocates of the directive suggest that the new legislation will create an ‘even playing field between US tech giants and European content creators by giving copyright holders more power over how big internet platforms distribute, and ultimately make money, through their content.
Critics of the legislation, however, say the Directive will end the internet due to its limitations on free speech and innovation.
Under intense pressure from lobbyists, activists, and corporate giants, European politicians have debated the legislation for more than two years.
The Directive’s most controversial clauses remain largely unchanged. They state that search engines and news aggregate platforms should pay to use links from news websites while holding larger technology companies responsible for material posted without a copyright licence.
The Directive will allow publishers to charge platforms like Google News when they display snippets of news stories, while platforms like YouTube will be able to block users from uploading copyrighted content via the introduction of upload filters that will scan all user content uploaded to sites to remove copyrighted material.
Experts say that such solutions, including the upload filters, will be ineffective for the most part. The cost of the technologies needed to restrict online content is likely to solidify the domination of the market by American tech giants
The European People’s Party MEP Axel Voss said that the 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”. At the same time, added Voss, the adopted text contains numerous provisions that will guarantee that the internet remains a space for free expression.
The Copyright Directive” 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,” said Voss.
EU Commission welcomes vote
The Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip and Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel welcomed the outcome, suggesting that the vote “ensures the right balance between the interests of all players – users, creators, authors, the press – while putting in place proportionate obligations on online platforms”.
“The Copyright Directive protects freedom of expression, a core value of the European Union,” the two Commissioners said while dismissing rumours that quotations, criticism, reviews, caricatures and as parodies will be banned. “The interests of the users are also preserved through effective mechanisms to swiftly contest any unjustified removal of their content by the platforms”.
Ansip and Gabriel also suggested that the Directive “will improve the position of creators in their negotiations with big platforms which largely benefit from their content. Writers, journalists, singers, musicians and actors will find it easier to negotiate better deals with their publishers or producers”.