Controversial Copyright Directive agreed by European Parliament

The European Parliament has agreed the draft Copyright Directive in plenary session.

The European Parliament has agreed the draft Copyright Directive in plenary session. MEPs adopted the directive in plenary, with 348 votes in favour, 274 against and 36 abstentions. 

In September 2016, the European Commission proposed modernising the EU copyright rules as part of the Digital Single Market Strategy. After much (fraught) negotiating, political agreement on the text of the proposed Directive was reached by the European Commission, European Parliament and Council of the European Union earlier this year.

The Directive aims to ensure that the long-standing rights and obligations of copyright law also apply to the internet. It also aims to ensure that the internet remains a space for freedom of expression. 

The directive aims to enhance rights holders’ chances, notably musicians, performers and script authors, as well as news publishers, to negotiate better remuneration deals for the use of their works when these feature on internet platforms. It does this by making internet platforms directly liable for content uploaded to their site and by automatically giving the right to news publishers to negotiate deals on behalf of its journalists for news stories used by news aggregators.

Numerous provisions are specifically designed to ensure the internet remains a space for freedom of expression. 

As sharing snippets of news articles is specifically excluded from the scope of the directive, it can continue exactly as before. However, the directive also contains provisions to avoid news aggregators abusing this. The ‘snippet’ can therefore continue to appear in a Google News newsfeeds, for example, or when an article is shared on Facebook, provided it is “very short”.

Uploading protected works for quotation, criticism, review, caricature, parody or pastiche has been protected more than it was before, ensuring that memes and Gifs will continue to be available and shareable on online platforms.

The text also specifies that uploading works to online encyclopedias in a non-commercial way, such as Wikipedia, or open source software platforms, such as GitHub, will automatically be excluded from the scope of the directive. Start-up platforms will be subject to lighter obligations than more established ones.

Authors and performers will be able to claim additional remuneration from the distributor exploiting their rights when the remuneration originally agreed is disproportionately low when compared to the benefits derived by the distributor.

The directive aims to make it easier for copyrighted material to be used freely through text and data mining, thereby removing a significant competitive disadvantage that European researchers currently face. It also stipulates that copyright restrictions will not apply to content used for teaching or illustration.

Finally, the directive also allows copyrighted material to be used free-of-charge to preserve cultural heritage. Out-of-commerce works can be used where no collective management organisation exists that can issue a licence.

According to the European Parliament, currently, internet companies have little incentive to sign fair licensing agreements with rights holders, because they are not considered liable for the content that their users upload. They are only obliged to remove infringing content when a rights holder asks them to do so. However, this is cumbersome for rights holders and does not guarantee them a fair revenue. Making internet companies liable will enhance rights holders’ chances (notably musicians, performers and script authors, as well as news publishers and journalists) to secure fair licensing agreements, thereby obtaining fairer remuneration for the use of their works exploited digitally.

Next steps

It will now be down to member states to approve Parliament’s decision in the coming weeks. If the member states accept the text adopted by the European Parliament, it will take effect after publication in the official journal and then member states will have two years to implement it.

A set of FAQs on the agreed text has been issued.

Published: 2019-03-27T12:00:00

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