The European Parliament has long recognized that online copyright regulations are due to adapt to the digital age. Vague and outdated laws have been leaving grey zones for content creators and transmission channels. Particularly when it comes to the establishment of a fair revenue share between content creators and internet platforms.
In its latest efforts to increase fairness within the world wide web, the European Parliament voted for the amendments of the new Copyright Directive. The updated legislation aims to set clear and European-wide standards in terms of digital copyright. Two of the amendments have called for a major controversial discussion ever since their approval votes: Articles 11 and 13. While some stakeholders have expressed content about the decision, campaigners call them a “disaster” and “one-sided.”
Article 11: “Tech Giants to Share Revenue with Artists and Journalists”
Article 11 introduces a so-called “link tax” to ensure that sharing platforms like Google, Facebook and YouTube pay content creators such as artists, journalists and news publishers for displaying their work. This includes the usage of headlines, news snippets or links to news stories. According to the Parliament, article 11 ensures a fair pay for all content creators and publishers.
To address the concern for smaller platforms – that may not be able to keep up with the new tax – the Parliament has decided to exclude these from the regulation. The exemption aims to protect innovation and start-ups. Moreover, encyclopedias such as Wikipedia and open source platforms such as GitHub are also excluded from the regulation.
However, the details and definitions of what constitutes a link or a commercial platform will depend on each individual EU country. What constitutes a small platform for some countries, might count as a big commercial platform in others. The regulation is also vague for major blogs, RSS feeds or platforms like Facebook groups that are operated by individuals.
Article 11 also has the potential for governments to abuse the way news is spread within the country and therefore opens the door for political corruption. Likewise, if a platform disagrees with a certain view or topic, it can decide not to pay for its specific content links, which results in the conceal of such topics. As a result, internet platforms may gain a major impact on shaping public opinion in the future.
Article 13: Internet Platforms to be Responsible for Uploaded Content
Article 13 introduces what many critics call an “upload filter.” So far, platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc were not liable for the content uploaded by users. With the new regulations, however, platforms will be held accountable for all uploaded content, which includes copyright infringements. To protect themselves from unlawful content, platforms will have to carefully scan and filter all uploads to evaluate whether the content infringes copyright.
Critics claim that in doing so, copyright trolls would open the doors to an extensive amount of mistakes due to the lack of existing technology. However, PlagScan may be able to develop the right technology to accommodate the scanning process in the future, if necessary.
Many artists and musicians – among them singer and songwriter Paul McCartney and Adele – are in favor of article 13. They would be able to negotiate better royalties on platforms like Youtube and earn fair compensation for their work. Other artists argue they would have a more difficult time displaying their creative work. Sharing platforms would have to go through the evaluation process whether or not their content infringes laws.
The popular meme culture is another example of an artistic obstruction. A meme constitutes a catchphrase placed on an image that is usually subject to copyright. Thus, platforms like Reddit, 9gag or 4chan would have to ban all memes du to their copyright violations. Some argue that the ban would lead to censorship and the damage of the freedom of expression.
The next step is a conversation between selected members of the Parliament, the EU Commission and representatives of the EU member states. The dialogue should establish more details for the regulations. The Parliament will then cast the final vote for the conditions of the new law between January and March 2019.
In the meantime, citizens of many EU countries are protesting and petitioning against the new Copyright Directive. An open letter to the lawmakers urges to vote against the law and has been signed by World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. The letter argues that the new Copyright Directive contradicts the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.
The exact outcomes of article 11 and 13 remain under speculation. We are curious about your take on this controversial topic. What is your opinion about the new copyright regulations? Let us know in the comments below why you agree or disagree with article 11 or 13.