Dubbed “a dark day for internet freedom” by critics, multiple copyright organizations have praised the Copyright Directive’s passing.
In a landmark vote, the European Parliament has approved the Copyright Directive. This includes two controversial measures – Article 11 (the ‘link tax’) and Article 13 (‘upload filters’).
348 Members of European Parliament (MEPs) voted in favor. 274 voted against. 36 abstained.
Prior to the vote, opponents had taken to the streets in several European cities. Major tech companies – most notably Google – had poured millions into anti-Copyright Directive campaigns.
Following the vote, multiple music industry organizations praised the bill’s passing.
According to the Independent Music Companies Association (IMPALA), the Copyright Directive now grants rightsholders an improved negotiation position with online platforms that use their works. In addition, authors and performers will benefit from new provisions included in the bill. These include better remuneration and contracts.
The Copyright Directive will also establish lighter rules for small startups.
Speaking about the bill’s passing, Helen Smith, Executive Chair at IMPALA, noted,
“This is a landmark day for Europe’s creators and citizens, and a significant step towards a fairer internet.
“Platforms facilitate a unique relationship between artists and fans, and this will be given a boost as a result of this directive.
“It will have a ripple effect worldwide.”
Calling the approval a massive step forward for consumers and creators alike, Robert Ashcroft, Chief Executive of PRS for Music, wrote,
“This is about creating a fair and functioning market for creative works of all kinds on the Internet.
“It’s about making sure that ordinary people can upload videos and music to platforms like YouTube without being held liable for copyright – that responsibility will henceforth be transferred to the platforms.”
In the final text, lawmakers revised two much-maligned measures in the Copyright Directive. Article 13 became Article 17, and Article 11 became Article 15.
Opponents claimed Article 17 would force all tech companies – including small companies – to install provisional and potentially costly ‘upload filters.’ These filters would repeatedly check for copyrighted content on user-generated platforms (UGC), most notably YouTube and Facebook. This, argued opponents, would promptly lead to censorship.
Rightsholder groups and other entertainment industries saw both measures as necessary to protect their works. The Copyright Directive, they argued, would ensure fair remuneration in the modern digital age.
Prior to the bill’s passing, the European Parliament first voted on rejecting the bill. 443 MEPs voted against and 181 voted in favor. Subsequently, Parliament held a vote to allow further amendments to the bill, which was rejected 317 to 312.
Unsurprisingly, the bill’s passing comes as an utter shock and failure for Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda.
Following the vote, she lambasted fellow MEPs who voted in favor of the bill.
Calling today a “dark day for internet freedom,” Reda wrote,
“The new copyright law as it stands threatens a free internet as we know it: Algorithms cannot distinguish between actual copyright infringements and the perfectly legal re-use of content for purposes such as parody.”
Also unsurprisingly, the Pirate Party readily supports infringement on copyrighted works online.
“Obliging platforms to use upload filters will lead to more frequent blocking of legal uploads and make life difficult for smaller platforms that cannot afford expensive filter software.”
Article 13 – now 17 – requires for-profit internet companies to license content directly from copyright holders. Should they fail to do so, they must immediately take infringing works down, ensuring said works are not re-uploaded.
ICMP, a global trade body for music publishing, also praised the bill’s passing, specifically Articles 4 and 12.
Chris Butler, Chair of the trade body’s Board, said,
“We’re particularly pleased to secure sector-specific safeguards for music publishers in Articles 4 and 12. These battles were hard-fought, amount to crucial wins for music in Europe, and are particularly important for our independent publisher members.”
Stating the bill now allows rightsholders to fight against YouTube’s paltry payouts to the music industry, John Phelan, ICMP Director, added,
“Four years of titanic tussling later, our work to solve the ‘Value Gap’ now begins a new stage after this vote. Namely, to ensure that those who make the music make a fair return.
“ICMP will keep working with all European governments to transpose this law appropriately. ‘Safe Harbors’ must not become archipelagos for platforms to devalue music. Today redoubles our determination in that mission.”
All 27 EU member states now have up to two years to implement the Copyright Directive in local legislation. Should a large member state, such as Germany, abruptly withdraw support of the bill, further negotiations would be required.