Tuesday

31st Mar 2020

EU lawmakers pass contentious copyright law

  • Sweeping new laws have been passed on online copyrighted content (Photo: rawpixel.com)

Some two years of heated debate on EU copyright reform on Tuesday (26 March) finally convinced the European Parliament to vote 348 in favour and 274 against.

MEPs in Strasbourg endorsed a bill that, paradoxically, often put US corporate tech giants like Google News, YouTube and Facebook in the same camp as pro-free internet defenders.

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The reforms, outlined in an EU directive which still needs to be adopted and placed into national laws over the next two years, sets out sweeping rules on how copyrighted content is posted online.

Article 13 was among the most controversial of the passed measures, and requires anyone sharing copyrighted content to get permission from rights owners or have it removed.

But it was not immediately clear how infringed copyrighted content will be identified and removed - amid fears by detractors that the law could possibly lead to a system of automated censorship.

A proposal to open up the text for amendments was rejected by just five votes.

The bill also requires search engines to pay for displaying snippets of linked news, in a move unsurprisingly welcomed by publishers and media syndicates.

Acrimony surrounding the debate was never far away, and only intensified among the EU lawmakers as the plenary, at one point, descended into a short shouting match.

Julia Reda from Germany's Pirate Party, in a tweet following the vote, described the final tally as "a dark day for internet freedom."

Earlier in the day, she made an impassioned plea for EU lawmakers to reject so-called upload filters that require platforms to scrub copyright content, as stipulated by article 13.

She said anyone endorsing an unamended bill would not only erode internet freedoms but also strip away the trust of all the young people who took to the streets over the weekend to protest against the reforms.

Five-million strong petition

"Five million have signed a petition against upload filters, there has never been such a broad protest against an EU directive," she said.

The UK-based Open Knowledge Foundation, a global non-profit network, said the reforms would also most likely lead to such filters in order to meet the demands of the law.

But Reda's pleas were rebuked by Danish liberal Jens Rohde, who noted that the terms 'upload filters' do not appear anywhere in final text of the bill.

His comments were echoed by EU commissioner for digital policy, Andrus Ansip.

Daniel Caspary, German centre-right MEP, had also taken Reda to task, after she accused him of saying that young people were being paid to protest against the reforms.

Horse-trading, political jockeying, and lobbying, on the bill also appears to have only intensified over the past few months and days.

On Monday, German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine reported that Berlin had even agreed to back such upload filters - on the condition that Paris supports its Nord Stream pipeline of gas from Russia.

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