European Union Faces New Copyright Predicament

Aven Wurzer

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The European Union has seen an intense debate regarding copyright changes in recent months. A proposed initiative, broadly named the “Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market,” intends to “harmonize” EU copyright laws from 28 separate member states into one, united market. Sounds good, right? Well, not quite, as the terms for this directive are rather controversial and have sparked political lobbying and debate from major tech companies, such as Google, Netflix, and Amazon. Many people have compared this to the FCC’s attempt at removing Net Neutrality earlier this year. So, what’s at stake for the EU?

The initiative holds controversy in two sections of its legislation: Article 11 and Article 13.

Article 11, dubbed the “link tax,” (as described by critics) intends to give news publishers and papers a source of revenue when sites like Google link to their stories. A paid license would have to be acquired beforehand. Similar proposals, such as Spain’s 2017 link tax on sites like Google News, ultimately failed.

Article 13, dubbed as a “meme ban,” requires social networking sites, like Twitter and Google, to have filters against the unlicensed copyrighted material. Critics have slammed this one as an unfair interpretation of fair dealing and a massive target against smaller companies, who don’t have the capabilities of mass filtering. “Perfectly legal content like parodies & memes will be caught in the crosshairs,” says MEP Julia Reda, a staunch opponent of the measures.

On September 12th, MEPs voted on the initiative in Strasbourg, France. The result was 438 in favor of the measures, 226 against, and 39 abstentions. The measure has moved to compromise negotiations, where it will be voted on again in early 2019.

The Music Publishers Association (MPA), applauded the result as “a fantastic day for creators & the UK music industry,” whereas opponents like Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights group, proclaim “the fight is not over. We will keep opposing these measures.”

He’s right. The fight isn’t over. There is still negotiations and votes to be held regarding this issue, and the EU looks forward to solving these further predicaments as eurosceptics loathe in fury and supporters wave the EU flag.