A Dark Day for Internet Freedom or a win for copyright holders? EU Parliament approves new copyright directive for the internet.




On March 26, 2019, the European Parliament approved new copyright directive with 348 votes in favour, 274 votes against and 36 abstentions. This in spite of protests and concerns raised by numerous organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders,  demonstrations by more than 150,000 protestors over the weekend preceding the vote, and more than 5 million signatures on an online petition against the changes.

The new directive involve Article 17 (formerly 13), Article 15 (formerly 11), and Article 12(a). In summary, the changes require larger and established internet platforms be held accountable for the copyrighted material on their websites, most likely via upload filters.

According to the EU directive, smaller content items such as MEMES and gifs are excluded as these items are parody, and as such are protected expression. However, opponents argue that it will be difficult to ensure that these are still allowed once platforms are required to use filters to detect copyrighted material.

Exclusions apply:

Not all platforms are affected. Those, such as WIKIPEDIA and other non-commercial open source services will not be required to apply filters. Further start-up websites meeting the following criteria are not subject to these rules, namely:

- younger than 3 years old;

- fewer than 5 million unique visitors per month;  and

- an annual income below 10 million EUR.


Pay for Play:

Under Article 15 (11), news aggregating services such as MSN and Google News are to pay journalist and publishers for use of their works. On the one hand, this may be great news for the journalists and creators of the shared works. However, the scope of this Article is unclear as sharing snippets of news articles is allowed. A “snippet” is open to interpretation and may be interpreted differently by each member state. Further, Academics and others have called for the removal of this restriction as it is understood that archives of news stories will become far less accessible.

Sports fans impacted?:

Sports fans should also pay attention to the Directive, especially to Article 12a as it puts a stop to anyone posting videos or photos from a sporting event who is not the official organiser. This means that sharing sports clips and even posting photos to social media could be an issue. Further, this article might be in limbo as the March 2019 version only says, on the last page, that the Commission in the future will assess the challenges of illegal online transmissions of sport broadcasts.

Final approval by the member states via the Council of the European Union, schedule for April 9.  After this, the Directive will enter into force 20 days after being published in the official journal  and member states will have two years to implement the directive into law. As with all articles, the actual impact will be entirely determined by how each member state will interpret the Directive.

We shall be sure to keep you informed









Jennifer KEPLER