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EU votes in favour of controversial copyright law

EU passes Copyright Directive

The European Parliament has voted in support of a controversial copyright law, ending three years of lobbying from tech groups and publishers.

Two main sticking points to the legislation were Articles 11 and 13.

The former says search engines, like Google, and news aggregate platforms should pay to use links from news websites. The latter would see tech companies held responsible for content posted without a copyright licence.

Tech companies have opposed the changes, saying it would require expansive filters to be introduced to prevent copyright violations. Critics have also voiced concerns on what the copyright bill would mean for quotations, parody and memes and said it could result in “over-blocking” to ensure compliance.

YouTube chief executive Susan Wojcicki even issed a rallying cry to its 'influencers' asking them to "save" the internet as Article 13 threatened “to shut down the ability of millions of people to upload content to platforms like YouTube."

But others – such as record labels – have said the updates are the only way to ensure artists receive fair compensation for content from tech platforms.

After three years of debate, the Copyright Directive was today (26 March) backed by 348 MEPs versus 278 voted against the bill.

It marks the first major change to copyright laws since an amendment in 2001.

Antonio Tajani, the president of the European Parliament, said it will "put an end to the existing digital Wild West by establishing modern rules."

In a statement, Google said the measure would "lead to legal uncertainty and will hurt Europe's creative and digital economies."

"The details matter, and we look forward to working with policy makers, publishers, creators and rights holders as EU member states move to implement these new rules," a spokesperson said.

EU member states will have two years from the publication of the new laws into implement them into their own legislation.

‘A concerning victory’

Responses to the directive from other parties have been mixed. Raffaella De Santis, an associate at law firm Harbottle & Lewis, said many creators will hail the passing of the directive as a “real victory” for their right to be fairly paid.

“However the effect of the text of the directive as passed could at the same time have very concerning and unintended consequences for vast swathes of online services, not simply those operating in music or news,” she said.

“This outcome is unpopular with digital services and importantly, many European voters. The key focus now will be on how the directive is implemented across the EU over the next two years, and care will need to be taken to ensure that smaller services are not disproportionately disadvantaged by measures which are in reality designed to curtail the formerly unchecked power of the tech giants.”

Sophie Goossens, counsel at law firm Reed Smith, suggested that it won’t be the tech giants like Google and Facebook that suffer, but smaller companies that don’t have the capital and expertise to implement the changes necessary.

“The largest technology platforms have already implemented upload filters but such technology can be expensive to acquire or take a long time (and a lot of money) to develop internally. There is a concern that it will be the smaller, European technology companies that will be most severely impacted by this new requirement, rather than the US technology giants,” she said.

“Now that the Directive has been passed, each EU member state will have 24 months to implement the text into their own national law. We can expect certain member states to introduce their own nuances and clarifications when doing so and so it will be interesting to observe how harmonised the position is across Europe at the end of the implementation period.”