Meme ban or creative protection? EU MEPs approve controversial online copyright law

Mar 26, 2019 | Content marketing, Regulation

The European Parliament has approved the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive, passing controversial copyright rules that campaigners claim could change the way the internet works.

The directive includes the controversial Article 11 and Article 13 now renamed Article 17). Article 11, dubbed the link tax, requires news aggregators and others to pay a charge when they link to certain articles on the web. Article 17 will require online platforms such as YouTube to filter or remove copyrighted material from their websites.

Supporters claim the rules are required to ensure that music companies and news outlets are properly paid for the content that technology companies distribute. But opponents, who assembled in force, allied with those tech firms to argue that it could change the way the internet works and destroy some of its fundamental principles.

The vote – which many had suggested in advance could have been close – passed the rules with 348 votes in favour and 274 against. There were 36 abstentions.

EU member states will have two years to implement the reforms, although it is not clear what it would mean for the UK in the face of Brexit uncertainty.

It is now highly likely that the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive will become law; rejection would require at least one member state to vote against the Directive when the European Council meets in April.

If it goes through as expected, member states will have until 2021 to transpose the Copyright Directive into their own laws.

There is likely to be a difference in implementation between France, which has been most in favour of the changes, and Poland and Germany whose politicians have been much more cautious following large demonstrations.

This will doubtless lead to a situation defined by confusion of definitions and protracted legal wrangling.