A great day for Europe’s creators? EU Parliament agree to controversial copyright reforms
September 2018: EU lawmakers have passed highly contested copyright proposals potentially forcing companies like Google and Facebook to share revenues with creatives. On the day French President Emmanuel Macron described the reforms as a “great advance for Europe” whilst others branded them “catastrophic”, we take a closer look.
The Copyright Directive, which updates online copyright law, seeks to prevent internet giants exploiting the work of artists and has sparked years of debate between the ‘creators’ and the champions of free speech. At its heart, the reforms aim to ensure that artists such as musicians, performers and journalists, are paid for their work when it is shared by the major platforms who profit from them. But there are two contentious sections that Marketers should be aware of – Article 11 and Article 13.
Article 11 dubbed “the Link tax”, could allow publishers and newspapers to charge whenever websites and social media platforms link to their content. Opponents stress that it will force anyone using snippets of journalistic content to get a license from the publisher first – threatening the future of hyperlinks and placing power into the hands of the publishers. Julia Reda, Pirate Party MEP said, “Today’s decision is a severe blow to the free and open internet…by endorsing new legal and technical limits on what we can post and share online, the European Parliament is putting corporate profits over freedom of speech and abandoning long-standing principles that made the internet what it is today.”
Article 13 would make websites like YouTube and Facebook responsible for what users upload, requiring them to install filters to identify and takedown copyrighted content. Critics are calling it a “censorship machine” and argue that only huge platforms will have the resources to monitor content in this way, leading to censorship of smaller free speech platforms and public expression. Monique Goyens, Director General of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation branded this “dangerous for creativity and innovation…..consumers nowadays express themselves by sampling, creating and mixing music, videos and pictures, sharing their creations online…Platforms will have no other option than to scan and filter any content that will lead to many uploads being unjustifiably blocked.”
It is also important to remember that small and micro platforms are excluded from the legislation as well as Wikipedia and other open source platforms and hyperlinks accompanied by individual words can be freely shared. Platforms must also establish rapid systems to deal with complaints about uploads that have been wrongly taken down.
The copyright directive will now pass for approval to the European Commission, the EU’s Executive arm, and then the leaders of the EU’s 28 member states will need to sign it off before individual countries draft local laws to put it into effect. It remains to be seen if the reforms will encourage or discourage creativity, but it will disrupt the internet, and the balance of power for its major players.
For Marketers, we may need to consider how we manage creative competitions that might feature samples of copyrighted music as a backing track or even images of clothing with a sportwear brand log on it !