Copyright Reform in the European Union

One of the priorities for the European Union is to create a Digital Single Market (policy appertaining to the European Single Market that covers digital marketing, E-commerce, and telecommunications). The first step to this was taken in 2001 with a directive (a legal act of the European Union) which harmonized EU legislation with international law. As a result, Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, saw the potential of harmonizing the various EU digital marketplaces with that of a knowledge-based society. Hence, the Juncker Commission began working on establishing a legal framework for the Digital Single Market, which was announced in 2015.


Currently, there has been continuous developments in regards to the legal framework. Specifically, there has been the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), May 2018, and the approval of the EU Copyright Directive, which was approved on September 12 2018 by the European Parliament. Both directives are set to further the goal of a Digital Single Market in regards to European Union copyright law. Essentially, the GDPR is shifting the balance of power towards consumers as it restricts how personal data is collected and handled, while the EU Copyright Directive is designed to update the online copyright laws in response to the expansion of the internet. Within the EU Copyright Directive, Articles 11 (also known as “link tax”) and 13 (also known as “upload filter”) caused the directive to be initially rejected by MEPs. On September 12 2018, amendments to Articles 11 and 13 were approved. In regards to those individual provisions: Article 11 enables publishers to make money when companies like Google News and Yahoo News share stories/articles from those publishers. Essentially, publishers would be able to “tax” said media platforms. Article 13 requires platforms to put an end to users sharing unlicensed copyrighted materials. Some specialists regard this practice by, for example, YouTube as a form of widespread censorship.


The European Parliament will provide the EU Copyright Directive with a final decision this January. If the European Parliament approves the directive, the internet’s largest technology and social media companies will lose their internet influence. It will have an enormous effect not only within the EU but also around the world.


Therefore, the legislation being discussed by the European Commission have dividing views with their respective supporters. So… What are the opinions/views?


The opposing views

On one side we have the technology Goliaths and internet visionaries who are arguing against copyright legislation. For example, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. These leading internet figures argue that the legislation and its provisions are a means of internet censorship. Furthermore, other critics have stated that the use of copyright-protected material should be permitted as it falls under the “fair use” principle.


The supporting views

On the other side we have big media names such as Paul McCartney, James Blunt, and opera star Plácido Domingo who are proponents of the copyright legislation. Most people who work in the content industry (e.g. musicians, record labels, etc.) have stated something along the lines of how copyright laws rebalance the licensing framework in Europe as it “creates a fair and equitable environment for creators who rely on the European economy to sustain their careers and businesses moving forwards” (ipwhiteboard).


The directive of the EU addresses the discrepancies in revenues generated by right holders of protected content as well as online platforms that host said content. Nevertheless, the way the European Union has attempted to solve this issue has proven to be highly controversial. The directive’s final approval will be held in January 2019. If the Copyright Directive is approved, EU member states and its citizens will enter unique legal and technological territories. Let us wait and see!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *