[A2k] FT: EU negotiators strike deal to revamp European copyright rules

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Thu Feb 14 00:09:28 PST 2019


EU negotiators strike deal to revamp European copyright rules
Two-year battle with tech ends with rules on taking down breaches of
intellectual property

Mehreen Khan in Strasbourg

EU negotiators have agreed a draft overhaul of European copyright rules,
ending a fierce two-year lobbying battle between tech giants and the
creative industries.

After three consecutive days of closed door talks in Strasbourg, EU
officials, MEPs and diplomats from member states, struck a deal to revamp
copyright rules to force platforms like YouTube to take down user-generated
content that is in breach of intellectual property law.

Wednesday’s agreement, which was concluded after 9pm following 12 hours of
negotiations, ends a fight that has set the likes of Google News, YouTube
and Twitter against musicians, artists, and news publishers who use their
services. A majority of MEPs must now vote in favour of the directive for
it to come into force. EU governments will also have to endorse the text.

“Europeans will finally have modern copyright rules fit for the digital age
with real benefits for everyone: guaranteed rights for users, fair
remuneration for creators, clarity of rules for platforms,” said Andrus
Ansip, the EU’s commissioner for digital policy.

The European Commission first proposed a revolution in copyright laws to
give rights-holders — like artists, musicians and publishers — better
bargaining power to demand payment from free internet services like
platforms and search engines.

Under the draft agreement, Google’s news service would be required to take
out licenses with publishers like newspapers to show articles on its news
feed. The search engine has warned its business model in Europe will be
threatened by the licensing rules and will restrict people’s ability to
know what they are clicking on. Opponents have dubbed it a “link tax”.

EU negotiators agreed to drop a requirement for “very short” snippets of
text to be protected by the rules, according to Axel Voss, a German MEP in
charge of agreeing the parliament’s position. Authors and journalists would
also be able to gain a share of license revenues.

“The deal aims at enhancing rights holders’ chances, notably musicians,
performers and script authors, as well as news publishers, to negotiate
better remuneration deals for the use of their works featured on internet
platforms”, said a statement from the European Parliament.

Officials said the final-stage negotiations had stumbled over whether memes
would be covered by the rules. Internet freedom campaigners have argued the
directive would make it illegal to share these fast-spreading images and
video clips and force platforms to take down parody content. Mr Voss said
the final agreement would allow users to freely share memes, GIFs and other
parody material if it was for non-commercial purposes.

One of the most controversial elements of the overhaul — known as Article
13 — is designed to make platforms more responsible for taking down
user-generated content that breaks copyright law. YouTube has warned this
means millions of videos will become unavailable in Europe.

Julia Reda, an MEP from Pirate Party Germany, said the agreement was a blow
for internet freedom and urged MEPs to reject the deal in a vote that is
likely to come in late March. “Upload filters do not work, as algorithms
simply cannot tell the difference between copyright infringements and legal
parody,” said Ms Reda.

“Requiring platforms to use upload filters would not just lead to more
frequent blocking of legal uploads, it would also make life difficult for
smaller platforms that cannot afford filtering software,” she said.

But Mr Voss said opponents who have dubbed the requirements as “the end of
the internet” were talking “total nonsense”. “We have not said anything
about filtering in the text. YouTube will still exist and the internet will
still exist,” said the MEP.

The European Group of Societies of Authors and Composers said the deal sent
“a clear signal that large platforms dominating the online content market
at the expense of creators must stop freeriding and comply with copyright

A group of European publishers, including the European Newspaper
Publishers’ Association and European Publishers Council, urged MEPs to back
the agreement to “allow a fair-value exchange between those who produce and
those who distribute for their own commercial gain, for the cycle to
continue profitably and fairly”.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association, which represents
platforms like Google, said forcing platforms to make their “best efforts”
to buy up licenses for copyrighted material would damage Europe’s tech

“We fear the law could harm online innovation, scale-ups, and restrict
online freedoms in Europe,” said Christian Borggreen, vice-president of
CCIA in Brussels.

The negotiations came close to collapse last month when EU governments
clashed over whether copyright rules should apply to smaller platforms. A
Franco-German compromise — backed by a majority of governments last week —
will mean any platform with revenues under €10m a year, fewer than 5m
monthly users, and that have been active for under three years, will be
subject to less rigorous take-down requirements.

If approved, member states will have two years to introduce the new rules.

Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org

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