EU lawmakers back copyright rules opposed by Big Tech

Final directive retains rules holding platforms to account legally in EU for user generated content

Tuesday’s vote means the directive will officially come into force from 2021. Photograph: iStock

Tuesday’s vote means the directive will officially come into force from 2021. Photograph: iStock

 

The European Parliament has voted in favour of the European Union’s first update of copyright rules in nearly two decades, putting an end to more than three years of intense lobbying from tech groups and publishers.

MEPs in Strasbourg on Tuesday voted by a margin of 348 votes to 274 to back rules that will force internet groups such as YouTube and Google to take out licences to show copyrighted content and make them liable to take down material that breaks intellectual property rules.

The copyright directive has divided EU governments and MEPs. Anti-copyright protests have gripped Germany over the past month, led by internet freedom campaigners, who argue it will stop users uploading material on the platform.

Tuesday’s vote means the directive will officially come into force from 2021. EU member states will have the intervening two years to implement the reforms, although it is not clear what it would mean for the UK in the face of Brexit uncertainty.

MEPs also rejected making any individual amendments to the reforms, but only by a slim majority of five votes.

Controversial

The final text included a controversial “Article 13” that has sparked protests from young people across Germany in the past month and led to Wikipedia blacking out some of its EU websites in protest.

Article 13 will make sites such as YouTube legally responsible for user-generated material they host in the EU and require all platforms to take out licences with rights-holders to show their material.

Opponents argue that this will lead to platforms filtering content to avoid falling foul of the rules.

A group of MEPs, led by the Greens and Pirates, has pushed for the article to be deleted from the final text but failed to gather enough support.

Under another, Article 11, services such as Google News will need to take out licences with publishers and newspapers to show short “snippets” of text.

A spokesman for Google said the directive would lead to “legal uncertainty and will hurt Europe’s creative and digital economies”.

“The details matter, and we look forward to working with policymakers, publishers, creators and rights holders as EU member states move to implement these new rules.”

Julia Reda, a German MEP and vocal opponent of the move, described the decision as a “dark day for internet freedom”.

Musicians Sir Paul McCartney and Debbie Harry were among the most vocal supporters of the changes, alongside a number of groups including the European Alliance of News Agencies, which argued that it provides an opportunity to further develop quality news services and enables it to compete more fairly with tech giants.

– Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019/Reuters