On 27 March 2019, the European Parliament approved, with a vote of 348 to 274, the new Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (the “DSM”) which will significantly tighten copyright on the internet.
While the new Directive has been hailed by record labels, artists and media companies as a move to fairly compensate artists, many tech firms like Google and Reddit, and internet activists argue that it will restrict and even destroy user-generated content, with Google stating that it would “harm Europe’s creative and digital industries.”
Although large parts of the DSM are uncontroversial, two elements (Article 11 and Article 13) have prompted much of the debate. Article 11 (dubbed the “link tax”) requires websites to pay publishers a fee for displaying extracts of copyrighted content or even having links to it, a move that is likely to greatly effect search engines and news aggregated platforms amongst many others.
Article 13 (dubbed the “upload filter”) effectively makes digital platforms (such as Facebook, YouTube and Reddit) responsible for any copyright infringements which occur on their platform. While tech companies, such as YouTube, already remove music and videos which are copyrighted, the DSM will make them liable for any copyrighted material that ends up on their site. It should be noted that Article 13 does exclude cloud storage services and pre-existing exceptions, including parody, which (to the relief on many) would likely include memes and GIFs!
Now that the European Parliament has approved the DSM, it will need to be formally endorsed by the Council of the European Union and then published (which will occur in the coming weeks). Each EU Member State will have to write the new Directive into their national laws over the next two years. As with all directives, the rate of transposition is dependent on the individual Member States and the rate is likely to be linked to how strongly they support the Directive, so it will be interesting to see how Italy, Poland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Finland (who all opposed they DSM) respond.