EC reaches copyright compromise

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The European Commission has reached an agreement on new copyright rules, including the controversial Article 13 requiring internet platfroms to obtain authorisation from rights holders at the point of posting. The EC stressed its objective is to “reinforce the position of creators and right holders,” in getting properly remunerated for the online use of their content by UGC platforms.

Currently such platforms, like YouTube, are obliged to remove infringing content when a rights holder asks them to do so. But the Commission and the European Parliament argues that this is “cumbersome for rights holders”, does not guarantee them fair revenue, and gives internet companies little incentive to sign fair licensing agreements with rights owners.

Now platforms will have to show they have proactively tried to guard against pirated content by making efforts to obtain an authorisation for use of copyrighted material, or to make sure that unauthorised use of content isn’t made available if a rights holder has provided information about their IP. The platforms will also have to “act expeditiously” to remove any unauthorised content following a notice and prevent future uploads.

The European Commission said that the rules will now allow internet users to upload copyright protected content on platforms like YouTube or Instagram legally. It also said that freedom of expression would be safeguarded in the cases of memes or parodies and that unjustified content removals can still be contested.

The EC said its wide-ranging package of rules will make copyright legislation “fit for [the] digital era”, bringing benefits to all creative sectors – the press, researchers, educators, cultural heritage institutions, and citizens.

“The negotiations were difficult, but what counts in the end is that we have a fair and balanced result that is fit for a digital Europe: the freedoms and rights enjoyed by internet users today will be enhanced, our creators will be better remunerated for their work, and the internet economy will have clearer rules for operating and thriving,” declared Andrus Ansip (pictured), the European Commission vice-president for the Digital Single Market.

The agreement between the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the Commission follows two and a half years of negotiations, though the rules still need to be ratified by the European Parliament and the Council before they come into force.

Commenting on the announcement, Zoey Forbes, Technology, Media and Entertainment associate at Harbottle & Lewis, said: “On the surface, the agreed text was an early Valentine’s Day present for creatives and the wider content industry. Copyright holders will receive additional revenues from the use of their works online as well as greater protection from online copyright infringement. However, as with all things, the devil is in the detail and some stakeholders feel the safeguards offered to the tech industry have not only watered down the EU’s original objectives but will actually leave copyright holders worse off.”

“Conversely, the tech industry and those advocating for freedom of expression are not appeased by these safeguards and continue to oppose the directive on an ideological level. Whatever their position, I expect that all those affected will be carefully considering the agreed text of the directive to understand its implications ahead of the final vote. Even if MEPs do vote in the new directive, those of us in the United Kingdom will not be obliged to follow the new rules if we either leave the EU without a deal or the directive is not implemented by the time we do leave,” she concluded.


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