As with The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) which entered into force earlier this year, another controversial piece of EU legislation in regards to the internet is being hotly debated. The EU Copyright Directive or the Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, is a proposed directive that is intended to change internet copyright law in the European Union.

The policy would require anyone with the ability to publish content online to maintain a database of copyrighted works that were claimed by right’s holders. Two articles in particular within the proposal, have been met with scrutiny in regards to how it would change online behaviors, specifically in terms of uploading and sharing media.

Controversy

The EU Copyright Directive, which would act as the only E.U. based internet copyright legislation since 2001, a time where the internet was a very different place than we know it now, therefore wide-sweeping and progressive changes are sought to be implemented and this has lead to a significant amount of controversy, most evident in Articles 11 & 13 of the proposed directive.

In regards to Article 11, content publishers would require extra copyrights for news or media outlets, requiring anyone who would like to link to a news site to obtain a license from the publisher/s. This could have the knock on effect of restricting access to information, the freedom of expression as well as likely encouraging the recent epidemic of fake news on the internet, as less reputable news outlets are less likely to charge as much as official news sources and thus the internet as we know it would be a more dangerous place for sharing information.

However, the most controversial of all is that of Article 13, which requires that internet platforms that rely on hosting large amounts of user-uploaded data must monitor that content and moderate it in order to identify copyright infringement, therefore, hosting sites would be required to use content recognition technologies to scan copyrighted videos, music, photos, text and code to remove them before they are ever posted. Many believe that this would impact on creation and sharing as the content-matching technologies employed to meet the requirements set out in the directive cannot identify fair dealing such as parody, thus the proposal could limit the freedom of expression and harm independent creators on the internet.



Backlash

Although it passed overwhelmingly in the European Parliament, with 438 votes in favour and 226 against, the directive has attracted many detractors, mainly in the form of the major online platforms and content publishers.

Google has come out against the proposed directive in stating that it may have to cease operation of Google News in the E.U. if they have to pay publishers to provide links to their articles or paying the “link tax” as Article 11 is being referred to.

In terms of Article 13, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, has also stated that “users could be less inclined to upload their own videos, viewers blocked and small creators could be ruined. Ultimately, this new rule could change the Internet that we see today.”

Popular content sharing sites, such as YouTube and Reddit have notified their users via their homepages, of the perceived dangers of the new directive and urged them to not only educate themselves further on the law but to join them in protesting it’s implementation, even going as far as shutting down operations for one whole day in an act of protest, in the case of Reddit.

What now?

As of this month Google has begun openly campaigning against the proposal, threatening to shut down YouTube in the EU unless concessions are made, however, as the directive was approved by the European Parliament on 12 September 2018, it is currently passing through formal trilogue discussions between the European Commission, the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament that are expected to conclude in January 2019. If formalised, each of the EU’s member countries would then be required to enact laws to support the EU Copyright Directive.