The Council of the European Union has green-lit the EU’s Copyright Directive, pushing through controversial new copyright laws.
The new rules will be formally signed on April 17 in the European Parliament in Strasbourg and EU Member States will have two years to adopt the directive.
Nineteen Member States, representing some 71% of the EU Population voted in favour of the legislation, with six voting against and three abstaining. This came after the European parliament passed the Copyright Directive last month with 348 votes in favour, 274 against and 36 abstentions.
The directive is designed to help creatives like musicians, performers, and writers negotiate better remuneration for the use of their works by making internet platforms directly liable for content uploaded to their sites.
Platforms like YouTube and Facebook will be most directly affected by the legislation. YouTube has been an outspoken critic, rallying site users and content creators in the run-up to the votes to object as part of an online campaign termed ‘Save your Internet’.
In a statement issued after the European Parliament vote last month, YouTube said that the directive “could still have unintended consequences that may harm Europe’s creative and digital economy” – despite acknowledging that the final version of the text is “an improvement” on the earlier version.
In their final form, the EU rules do not impose upload filters, nor do they require user-uploaded platforms to apply any specific technology to recognise illegal content. However, online platforms will be required to conclude licensing agreements with right holders – for example, music or film producers – for the use of music, videos or other copyright protected content.
If licences are not concluded, these platforms will have to make “their best efforts” to ensure that content not authorised by the right holders is not available on their sites. This “best effort” obligation does not prescribe any specific means or technology.
Critics of the legislation, who have rallied online behind the ‘Save your Internet’ hashtag, cite freedom of speech concerns that could stem from a stricter policing of content at the point of upload, arguing that this clause, known as Article 13, could damage the open web.
However, a ‘YES! To the Copyright Directive’ group backed by organisations representing authors, composers, writers, journalists, photographers and others working in all artistic fields, welcomed the adoption of the rules.
In a statement issued yesterday, EU Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, claimed that with the agreement the EU is making copyright rules “fit for the digital age”.
“Europe will now have clear rules that guarantee fair remuneration for creators, strong rights for users and responsibility for platforms,” he said. “When it comes to completing Europe’s digital single market, the copyright reform is the missing piece of the puzzle.”