What Do You Meme?: EU Directive Strengthens Copyright Law

What’s going on here?

The new EU Directive has been passed, which is aimed at strengthening EU copyright law.

What does this mean?

The EU Copyright Directive passed last week, has been years in the making and subject to huge public debate. The directive changes the law on copyrighted content posted online and has been very controversial.

The two key areas of controversy in the directive are Article 11 and Article 13. Despite opposition to the two articles, they still made it into the final law.

Article 11 has been dubbed the “link tax” and relates to posting of snippets of journalistic content online. These snippets are often the headline of an article and the picture that goes with it. Those sites that post such snippets are now required to seek permission from the content provider and even pay a fee. An example of this would be the results in Google News searches. Similarly, the previews generated when someone posts a link on a website like Facebook will also require permission.

Article 13 has also been extremely controversial. Before the Directive, sites which hosted copyrighted content would escape liability. Only the person that posted the content could be liable. Now, under Article 13, the site hosting must have permission from the copyright holder. A failure to do this will result in liability. This is aimed at sites like YouTube, where users regularly post protected content (like movie clips) which infringe copyright.

What’s the big picture effect?

One of the biggest issues with these reforms is how they are likely to be implemented. For Article 13, this would require the use of filters to prevent people from uploading content. The issue with this is that these filters aren’t perfect and don’t always prevent copyrighted content from being uploaded. This could also make it harder for those using copyrighted content legitimately to upload this content, as the filters may catch it.

For Article 11 the implementation is likely to mean that hyperlinks to news stories will not come with a preview. There are worries that this would discourage the use of links to share information and news. This is also likely to have an impact on news startups and small publishers, who rely on these snippets to spread their content.

Further, major tech companies have a global reach. As such, a change in law in one area is likely to have a ripple effect throughout the company as a whole. This is because it would be cheaper and easier for these tech companies to adopt one uniform policy that complies with the stricter laws than employing multiple policies depending on which country it is operating in. Indeed we saw many companies use this approach when the GDPR was adopted (to read our article on the GDPR click here).

There is also the chance that tech companies will simply reduce what they offer in EU countries. Before the decision was made, Google has said that it may have to take down its news service in the EU and reduce “top stories” section to just titles, if the reforms were passed.


Report written by Harry B.

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