On Thursday, the EU Parliament voted down the controversial Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, 318 opposed to 278 in favor. This decision to reject the Directive, in particular the notorious articles 11 and 13, is a major win for websites both large and small, in addition to the broader internet community.
Article 11, the “link tax,” and Article 13, which would have required all content hosts to screen material for copyright infringement, were the main sticking points of the legislation. Advocates’ rapid and effective mobilization against these two provisions helped defeat the measures which only narrowly passed committee a few weeks ago.
The debate was framed as a continuation of the EU’s effort to rein in big tech companies, but entrenched interests made their support of the Directive known, too. On the other side, major media companies and other copyright holders organized in favor of the measure that would dramatically increase their ability to control the content they own the legal rights to.
“Media businesses like Axel Springer of Germany have become frustrated because even as their content has spread online, it is platforms like YouTube, owned by Google, and Facebook that have grown into advertising powerhouses on the back of the material.
Those media companies have been seeking a rewrite of Europe’s copyright laws that would give them more power to restrict how their content is distributed…
Supporters of the bill argued that stricter copyright laws would give content creators more leverage against internet behemoths such as Google. Publishers have long complained that such companies profit from the work of others.”
All of these claims are true, but none are arguments for turning copyright enforcement on its head–they are just a description of how their business model is affected by the EU’s policy as it exists today. Currently, it is the burden of users (i.e. uploaders) to not infringe copyright, and any violations are handled on a case-by-case basis. Article 13 would have switched it around, so content hosts bear the burden of screening material for copyright infringement.
The internet functions best when content producers are easily able to put their content online. A screening system that could potentially flag materials that aren’t protected by copyright (such as memes, which are considered parody) all while imposing large costs on content hosts is a policy that is difficult to square with an open internet, regardless of copyright holders’ bottom lines.
Though similar legislation may be introduced again this fall, for now, content hosts can breathe easy knowing aggressive enforcement requirements for copyright protection have been successfully forestalled.