This week’s approval of the long-debated European Union Copyright Directive by the EU’s member states has groups for content creators and digital rights organizations speaking up about potential impacts—positive and negative, respectively.
The European Union, after much debate and controversy, is moving forward with a plan to overhaul copyright protection for the internet age.
And no matter one’s view of the long decision-making process (a lot of opinions are out there!), the shifts that the EU Copyright Directive will bring promise to be a big subject of debate in the months and years to come.
The full impact of the directive, which was approved by the European Parliament last month and this week got the nod from 19 of the EU’s 28 member countries, remains to be seen. Associations are likely to be interested in Article 17 (previously known as Article 13)—which requires large websites, particularly major content distributors like Facebook and Google, to implement filters that would detect and remove copyrighted materials being shared without authorization. Meanwhile, organizations whose members stand to gain or lose—many of which lobbied hard for or against the the measure—reacted vocally in recent days:
The media industry. In a joint statement, four major European publishing groups called for immediate implementation of Article 15, the section formerly known as Article 11, which sets a “link tax” on content aggregators. “There is no time to wait,” European Newspaper Publishers’ Association President Carlo Perrone said. “We urgently need the publisher’s right to improve press publishers’ bargaining position in the digital environment and protect them against the unauthorized commercial use of their press publications.” Other media groups echoed that position, including the European Magazine Media Association, the European Publishers Council, and News Media Europe. EMMA noted the importance of publishers having “the right to set terms and conditions for others to reuse their content commercially.”
Digital advocacy groups. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an advocate for an open internet and a leading opponent of the directive in the U.S., urged a court challenge—but not by big tech companies. “EU netizens will need to organize and support independent European digital rights groups willing to challenge the directive in court,” EFF’s Danny O’Brien wrote last month. One such group, European Digital Rights, said in a blog post this week that “the only way to prevent, in practice, upload filters for copyright purposes in the EU is to influence the national-level implementation.”
The music industry. The Independent Music Companies Association, which represents nonmajor labels, described the directive as “balanced.” “By adopting this landmark text, the EU has proved itself a leader in terms of delivering a fair, open, and sustainable internet,” said Helen Smith, the group’s executive chair. “This text clarifies the position of platforms, building on European case law. It is a first of its kind and sets an example for other countries across the globe.” Some countries, including Germany, have implied that they would likely take steps to limit the use of upload filters.
The Wikimedia Foundation. One of the most prominent critics of the directive, the Wikimedia Foundation highlighted “blackout” protests by Wikipedia sites across Europe during debate on the measure. While portions of the directive were changed specifically to prevent it from directly affecting Wikipedia, the foundation says it will likely make research more difficult to conduct. “It is disappointing that, in the end, the majority of members of the European Parliament chose not to listen to the millions of voices in Europe concerned about the direction this directive has taken,” foundation legal officials Jan Gerlach and Allison Davenport wrote last month.