European Parliament adopts copyright reform in blow to big tech

MEP Axel Voss, who supports the copyright reforms, votes in European Parliament on Tuesday
MEP Axel Voss, who supports the copyright reforms, votes in European Parliament on Tuesday

The European Parliament on Tuesday adopted copyright reforms championed by news publishers and the media business, in defiance of the tech giants that lobbied against it.

Despite an intense debate inside and outside of the Strasbourg chamber, MEPs ended up passing the draft law with 348 votes in favour, 274 against, and 36 abstentions.

European lawmakers were sharply divided, with both sides subjected to some of the most intense rival lobbying the EU has ever seen from tech giants, media firms, content creators and online freedom activists.

The culmination of a process that began in 2016, the revamp to European copyright legislation was seen as urgently needed, not having been updated since 2001, before the birth of YouTube or Facebook.

The reform was loudly backed by media companies and artists, who want to secure revenue from web platforms that allow users to distribute their content.

But it was strongly opposed by internet freedom activists and by Silicon Valley, especially Google, which makes huge profits from the advertising generated alongside the content it hosts.

After the vote, a Google spokesperson warned that the reform "will still lead to legal uncertainty and will hurt Europe's creative and digital economies."

Protests and media stunts

The final days before the vote were marked by marches and media stunts, including tens of thousands of people protesting in Germany on Saturday under the slogan "Save the Internet".

The reform was loudly backed by media companies and artists, who want to obtain a better return from web platforms such as YouTu
The reform was loudly backed by media companies and artists, who want to obtain a better return from web platforms such as YouTube or Facebook that allow users to distribute their content

There were similar protests in Austria, Poland and Portugal, while major Polish newspapers on Monday printed blank front pages in an appeal that MEPs adopt the reform.

"I know there are lots of fears about what users can do or not—now we have clear guarantees for freedom of speech, teaching and online creativity," Commission vice president Andrus Ansip said after the vote.

Germany was at the heart of the anti-reform movement, led by Julia Reda, a 32-year-old Pirate Party MEP who spearheaded a campaign against two of the law's provisions that have become flashpoints in the debate.

Reda said the vote marked a "dark day for internet freedom" and decried that MEPs refused, albeit narrowly, to modify the text before the final vote.

For Reda and her supporters the main worry was Article 13, which aims to strengthen the bargaining power of rights holders with platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Soundcloud, which use their content.

Under the reform, European law for the first time would hold platforms legally responsible for enforcing copyright, requiring them to check everything that their users post to prevent infringement.

'Details matter'

Reda and her supporters warned that Article 13 would require platforms to install expensive content filters that would automatically and often erroneously delete content from the web.

Speaking after the vote, Reda told AFP that she still hoped the German government would bow to public pressure and demand changes to the law before it is formally adopted.

The EU copyright reform is strongly opposed by tech giants like Google which make huge profits from the advertising generated on
The EU copyright reform is strongly opposed by tech giants like Google which make huge profits from the advertising generated on content they host

After that, seen by most observers as a formality, member states will have two years to transpose the EU directive into their own legislation.

"I think what the ultimate result will be that the internet will become more like cable television," Reda told AFP.

"That generally there is going to be less diversity of online platforms because the risk of running a platform legally will become much higher."

Backers of the law, led by MEP Axel Voss, answered that filters are not a requirement but they do not explain how companies can comply with Article 13 without them.

The second article advocated the creation of a "neighbouring right" to copyright for news media.

This is designed to enable news companies to demand payment when their output is used by information aggregators like Google News or social networks such as Facebook.

Major publishers including AFP have pushed hard for the reform, seeing it as an urgent remedy to safeguard quality journalism and the plummeting earnings of traditional media companies.

The reform, if properly implemented by member states "can help to maintain journalism in the field, which all evidence shows is still the best way to combat misinformation," said AFP CEO Fabrice Fries.

But opponents have called it a "link tax" that will stifle discourse on the internet and pay only big media companies, with no real benefits for journalists or news gatherers.

The reform is staunchly backed by France and several other member states, but some countries may decide to use the flexibility built into the reform that allows a loose interpretation of the rules.


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Final push at European Parliament for EU copyright reform

© 2019 AFP

Citation: European Parliament adopts copyright reform in blow to big tech (2019, March 26) retrieved 22 May 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-03-european-parliament-copyright-reform-big.html
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User comments

Mar 26, 2019
This attack upon cultural freedom by the minions of the hard right will burn in infamy.

Mar 26, 2019
As Europe starts to enforce this, the only benefactors will be malefactors of great wealth. Laws like this in place many years ago gave rise to great wealth dispaarities before. If those 'got rocks' want to empower an impoverished proletariat to rise up and take to the streets singing the 'Internationale and carrying red flags of Communism or some other brand of Socialism, there is no better way than this. I have no dog in this fight as am not a European but do have family in Germany. They are relatively well off, but hard working Germans ARE well off, and Italians. Not so much Brits with their 'class' system so loved by the figurehead of Brit classism May who no doubt will become a 'peer of the ?realm' after she leaves office. She keeps carrying water for that parasite royal family'' and her tenure will be history soon courtesy of a no confidence vote.

Mar 26, 2019
And I have relatives in that royal family from long long ago..... William of Normandie....Charlemagne....the Merovigians....Maria Magdalena for whom the Rennes-le-Château Cathedral was dedicated in the first century A.D. Have genealogy to prove it nine yards long and containing thousands of names.

Mar 26, 2019
The good thing about the EU is that the member states can drag their feet forever with these sort of laws.

For example, Sweden is technically obliged to use the Euro, but on a small technicality they haven't, and never will, because that avoids the problem with the "internal exchange rate" of the Euro between countries with different tax and social cost structures, where a welfare and public spending heavy state like Sweden would be losing a lot of business to Germany, Italy, etc.

If the copyright reform proves unpopular, none of the member countries will implement it properly, everyone will implement it differently, and simply (and deliberately) create a mess than then requires a re-reform because nobody can make it work.


Mar 26, 2019
Platforms to be responsible for enforcing copyright laws? They may as well shut down. People will always find a way around censoring, so these platforms will need at least some leeway. So that seems like a terrible idea. On the other hand, traditional press is losing a lot of money due to online press, and perhaps this will help to combat these losses. If journalism becomes economically unsustainable, news will have to be subsidized by sponsors, who always have their own agenda. So keeping news agencies profitable really is good for freedom of speech.
In any case, you can always use VPNs and enjoy the freedoms of an anonymous, uncensored internet.

Mar 26, 2019
News companies are going to lose and not make money on this. I read a lot of news and I wouldn't even know about many outlets if it wasn't for sites like Google running the headlines on articles. That means I won't be clicking on any of those news agencies online ads too since I won't even know about their articles. This is just dumb.

Mar 27, 2019
And I have relatives in that royal family from long long ago.........Charlemagne....


Me too:)

https://www.thegu...therford

Mar 28, 2019
Platforms to be responsible for enforcing copyright laws? They may as well shut down.


That's the intention - to shut down platforms by throwing copyright claims at them and claiming they aren't dealing with it properly. It's impossible to adhere to the law, because technically speaking even a quotation from a news article or a book is copyrighted material and requires a permission from the author.

You simply can't check it all, unless the author complains, and they aren't checking which means nearly all social media platforms etc. contain innumerable "submarine mines" that could be claimed if you just start looking for them.

Mar 28, 2019
If journalism becomes economically unsustainable, news will have to be subsidized by sponsors


They've always been. Or clickbait/trash journalism (tabloids).

I read a lot of news and I wouldn't even know about many outlets if it wasn't for sites like Google running the headlines on articles.


There are other news aggregators that you don't know about because Google is your first and last stop. That's the point of Google: they are the "home page of the internet", so they get the first pick on which services and outlets you are even aware of, which is why all the businesses turn to them for advertising purposes - otherwise they might as well not exist for the vast majority of users.

Mar 28, 2019
No Eikka, it's not. I use other search engines too. You also missed the point I was making there. If doesn't matter who owns the search engine. It's going to be the same for all of them.

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