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EU Parliament Passes Digital Copyright Rules

September 13, 2018

Tech giants must pay for work of artists and journalists which they use

Small and micro platforms excluded from directive’s scope

Hyperlinks, “accompanied by “individual words” can be shared freely

Journalists must get a share of any copyright-related remuneration obtained by their publishing house

Parliament adopted its revised negotiating position on copyright rules on Wednesday, adding safeguards to protect small firms and freedom of expression.

Parliament’s position for talks with member states to hammer out a final deal was approved by 438 votes to 226, with 39 abstentions. It makes some important tweaks to the June committee proposal.

Tech giants to share revenue with artists and journalists

Many of Parliament’s changes to the EU Commission’s original proposal aim to make certain that artists, notably musicians, performers and script authors, as well as news publishers and journalists, are paid for their work when it is used by sharing platforms such as YouTube or Facebook, and news aggregators such as Google News.

After the vote, rapporteur Axel Voss (EPP, DE) said, “I am very glad that despite the very strong lobbying campaign by the internet giants, there is now a majority in the full house backing the need to protect the principle of fair pay for European creatives.

There has been much heated debate around this directive and I believe that Parliament has listened carefully to the concerns raised. Thus, we have addressed concerns raised about innovation by excluding small and micro platforms or aggregators from the scope.

I am convinced that once the dust has settled, the internet will be as free as it is today, creators and journalists will be earning a fairer share of the revenues generated by their works, and we will be wondering what all the fuss was about.”

Fair pay for artists and journalists while encouraging start-ups

Parliament’s position toughens the Commission’s proposed plans to make online platforms and aggregators liable for copyright infringements. This would also apply to snippets, where only a small part of a news publisher’s text is displayed. In practice, this liability requires these parties to pay right holders for copyrighted material that they make available. Parliament’s text also specifically requires that journalists themselves, and not just their publishing houses, benefit from remuneration stemming from this liability requirement.

At the same time, in an attempt to encourage start-ups and innovation, the text now exempts small and micro platforms from the directive.

Protecting freedom of expression

The text includes provisions to ensure that copyright law is observed online without unfairly hampering the freedom of expression that has come to define the internet.

Thus, merely sharing hyperlinks to articles, together with “individual words” to describe them, will be free of copyright constraints.

Any action taken by platforms to check that uploads do not breach copyright rules must be designed in such a way as to avoid catching “non-infringing works”. These platforms will moreover be required to establish rapid redress systems (operated by the platform’s staff, not algorithms) through which complaints can be lodged when an upload is wrongly taken down.

Wikipedia and open source software platforms will not be affected

The text also specifies that uploading to online encyclopaedias in a non-commercial way, such as Wikipedia, or open source software platforms, such as GitHub, will automatically be excluded from the requirement to comply with copyright rules.

Stronger negotiating rights for authors and performers

Parliament’s text also strengthens the negotiating rights of authors and performers, by enabling them to “claim” additional remuneration from the party exploiting their rights when the remuneration originally agreed is “disproportionately” low compared to the benefits derived.

The text adds that these benefits should include “indirect revenues”. It would also empower authors and performers to revoke or terminate the exclusivity of an exploitation licence for their work if the party holding the exploitation rights is deemed not to be exercising this right.

Commenting on the European Parliament's vote on the Copyrght directive, techUK's Head of Brexit, International and Economics, Giles Derrington, said:

"Today’s vote on the Copyright directive is hugely disappointing and represents a setback for an innovation-led European economy. Far from advancing the European digital economy through the Digital Single Market, the proposals adopted by the European Parliament today will lead to significant additional burdens on companies seeking to serve the European market. It is bad news, not just for UK digital businesses, but also for the general public who now risk seeing their freedoms online being restricted.

"While the aims of the Copyright directive proposals were understandable, the method that has been adopted will not achieve the stated objectives. Requirements for platforms to filter all user uploaded content will likely result in a reduced user experience and the over-removal of legitimate content. The creation of a new neighbouring right for press publishers will make sharing news articles online more difficult, making it harder for the public to find good quality journalism online. Today was also a lost opportunity to make Europe a more attractive place for Artificial Intelligence development. Instead, fragmented rules across the EU will mean a confusing picture on where text and data mining technologies are allowed.

"The proposals will now enter interinstitutional negotiations with the European Commission and European Council where there is an opportunity for further compromise. techUK urges the negotiators to take any steps possible to protect the open internet during these discussions.

"To be clear, the UK leaving the European Union will not protect UK businesses from these new requirements. Any UK business seeking to serve the EU market will have to comply with the directive which, given the size and importance of the EU market to UK businesses, will be a significant barrier to market entry."

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