Many corporate entities were worried over the European Union’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), imposing heavy fines for failure to protect data on their websites after the new rules came into effect back in May.
Though the concern was palpable by the firms subjected to potential GDPR fines at the time, a newly passed Copyright Directive from the E.U. adds even more implications for tech companies.
The Copyright Directives are here and having passed the amendments, particularly Article 11 and Article 13, the European Parliament has, in a narrow sense, set the cat among the pigeons.
What worries those who oppose these newly proposed laws is that there is a lot of ambiguity still, and many clauses may clash with accepted laws in different countries in Europe and the scope for interpretations.
What exactly are the positions in the amendments and how do they impact some of the routine activities on the internet now? Here’s an overview.
The Broad Contours of the Directives
At a superficial level, the European parliament is working on the premise that original creators of content from Europe—whether these are news stories or music or videos or any other such content—don’t get rewarded for their work, whereas the top U.S.-based companies like Google and Facebook earn huge revenues by using the very same content originating from European creators.
This is where the copyright issue has emerged, and the European Parliament is busy correcting this error.
In the new amendments, two issues stand highlighted: one involves the payments to be released to those who own the content by those who use it; and the other tries to identify what constitutes copyright infringement.
Here are the details of these two parts:
The Link Tax: Article 11
The most frequently quoted example for this is Google News, which picks up stories from anywhere in the world and puts it out as Google News.
The page where the Google News stories are displayed may be having advertisements from which Google earns its revenues, whereas the originator of the news—whether it is a European news agency or publication or just a freelance source—gets nothing for their work.
Google is just one example; there are others like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter and so on. This is being corrected through the amended version of Article 11 of the Copyright Directives, which now says that anyone using parts of online journalism and content must first obtain a license from the publisher. This would be applicable for 20 years after the content is initially published.
Now, how practical would this be when implemented and will it stand litigations in the courts in the individual countries are factors still to be clarified.
Upload Filters: Article 13
The other article being discussed here states that internet platforms hosting “large amounts” of user-generated content must filter users’ content contributions to identify and prevent copyright infringement.
Here again, the intention behind this amendment in the Copyright Directive is to protect the rights of European professionals in different fields from being exploited by the internet industry.
The example being cited is that of images and videos which are picked at random and posted on sites like YouTube. The one posting the content might not be the owner of the content.
The E.U. wants these large companies to first ascertain the originality of the content before carrying it on their platforms.
Those opposing this amendment argue that even this is an impracticable law since there is no foolproof technology available to do the filtering as desired by this new law.
Some amount of filtering is already being done but how this is going to be monitored and by whom will be questions begging answers.
Many Criticisms Levelled
Though the staunch supports of these new changes in the copyright laws in Europe being brought by the Parliament are being welcomed by those with direct interests in these issues, at a broader level, there are many arguments being put forth on the intended and the actual consequences in the marketplace once these become law.
To be clear, the amendments passed now by the European Parliament go through a three-way discussion/dialogue process involving the representatives of individual countries and the stakeholders and then will be brought back to the Parliament for final passing as a law, which may happen in early 2019.
What further changes, good or bad, depending on which side you are, will be known only when the final law is enacted since these dialogues will be held not in the public view.