Plans to update EU copyright rules, including measures to monitor and filter virtually all uploads to the Internet, backed by MEPs Wednesday, have been termed a ‘vote for mass internet censorship’.
The proposed directive on copyright in the digital single market aims to ensure that artists (especially small ones, for instance musicians), news publishers, authors and performers derive more benefit from the online world and today’s Internet.
The vote is only the first step of a parliamentary procedure to adopt copyright laws ‘fit to meet the challenges of the internet’, according to the Parliament’s rapporteur Axel Voss MEP: “The last laws to address copyright in the information society date back 17 years and the internet of today is fundamentally different to what it was in 2001,” he said.
MEPs on the Legal Committee were voting to adapt laws for creators and news publishers to the world of the Internet. They point out that ‘news publishers and artists, especially the smaller ones, are not getting paid due to the practices of powerful online content-sharing platforms and news aggregators’. The principle of fair pay for work done ‘should apply to everyone, everywhere, whether in the physical or online world’, they say.
However, some of the measures have been heavily criticised by some in the Internet community, including the controversial Article 13, which mandates the mass monitoring and censorship of internet uploads. There has also been criticism from NGOs, academics, businesses, and even from internet pioneers such as Tim Berners-Lee.
EuroISPA, the pan-European association of European Internet Services Providers Associations, regretted the vote, saying Article 13, in its current form, “would damage the competitiveness of the vast majority of the Internet ecosystem, mostly comprised of small and medium size providers”.
Article 13, it adds, would require Internet platforms to install “unaffordable upload filters to assess the legality of copyright-protected content. This will lead to over-blocking and censorship of lawful content, thus endangering European users’ fundamental freedoms”.
The focus of many of the committee amendments was to ensure that artists, notably musicians, and news publishers, are not deprived of fair remuneration for their work, by the strategies of sharing platforms and news aggregators.
For example, the text limits what elements of a news article news aggregators can share without needing to pay the rightholder a licence fee. It also requires sharing platforms either to pay fees to rightholders whose content is uploaded on these platforms or to ensure that an upload containing copyrighted material is blocked if the platform will pay no fee.
The committee also sought to ensure that copyright law is observed online without unfairly hampering the freedom of expression that has come to define the internet.
The committee says measures put in place by upload platforms to control that uploads do not breach copyright must also be designed in such a way so as not to catch “non-infringing works”. These platforms will be required to establish easy redress systems through which a person can request the reinstatement of an upload if he considers that it was wrongly taken down due to an alleged breach of copyright.
The committee 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. The committee also strengthens negotiation rights of authors and performers. It enables them to “claim” additional remuneration from the party exploiting their rights when the remuneration originally agreed is “disproportionately” low compared to the benefits derived from the exploitation of the work.
The text says that the benefits should include “indirect revenues” too. Likewise, the committee also grants authors and performers a right to revoke or terminate the exclusivity of an exploitation licence of their work if the party holding the exploitation rights is considered not to be exercising this right.
The text also deals with exceptions from copyright general rules for text and data mining, illustrations used for education and for cultural heritage institutions such as museums or libraries.