Under the proposal, content platforms such as Facebook and Google would have to pay publishers to use their content.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on February 21, 2019

The proposal, titled The European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market,
would mandate Google and similar platforms entering into licensing agreements with content creators, including news outlets, journalists, authors and record labels to reproduce their work online.

Platforms such as YouTube and Instagram would also be required to filter out copyright-protected content.

Moves to amend the law to require content platforms to share revenue with creators and safeguard the future of the creative, publishing and broadcast industries have been in the works for two years. The reform was also partly driven by a perceived need to protect the cultural heritage of the EU.

Google opposed to the EU’s copyright reforms

The majority of EU representatives voted for the change while Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Poland were opposed to it. The argument against the reform was that it could disincentivise innovation and hurt the competitiveness of the EU member nations in the digital sphere.

The dissenting nations also said in a statement that the directive “will lead to legal uncertainty for many stakeholders concerned and may encroach upon EU citizens’ rights”.

Members of European Parliament will vote on the directive next week, with a parliamentary vote to follow in either March or April.

Google has been vocal in opposing the reforms, saying they have the potential to “change the web as we know it”. It has also threatened to block Google News in Europe if the reforms go ahead.

Some content platforms would be exempt from the new laws

The EU argued the changes were necessary to adapt the law for the digital era; the previous reforms to copyright law were back in 2001.

The reforms are contained in Article 13 of the EU Copyright Directive. They carve out a class of websites exempt from the new laws, including not-for-profit online encyclopaedias (such as Wikipedia), cloud storage services, online marketplaces like eBay, open source software development hubs and communication services.

There are also provisions for people to reproduce sections of copyright-protected content for the purpose of review, criticism, parody and pastiche.

The directive also proposes to shield small and or startup content services from the full force of the law as they only apply to services that have been established in the EU for three or more years or have an annual turnover of more than €10 million (US$11.2 million).

Article 13 says it shall “in no way affect legitimate uses” and people will be allowed to use bits of copyright-protected material for the purpose of criticism, review, parody and pastiche.