EU Parliament approves new copyright rules which could have ‘catastrophic’ implications

Members of the European Parliament (MEP) have approved articles 11 and 13 in a recent vote, in a move which could have ‘catastrophic’ implications for the internet, it has been warned.

These controversial articles stipulate that technology and social media platforms must filter the content users post on them and check for copyright infringement.

Warnings have come from campaigners explaining that this could ultimately result in having to introduce stringent new automated checks; which would mean content would need to pass a vetted before it can be posted.

According to campaigners, the new rules could reject anything that can loosely be defined as copyright infringement, such as popular memes that use screengrabs from films, for instance, which could potentially be ‘banned’, it has been warned.

Julia Reda, a Pirate Party MEP who has actively campaigned against the new measures and said they would be “catastrophic”, said that upload filters will mean that legitimate content will be removed from sites accidentally.

“Anything you want to publish will need to first be approved by these filters; perfectly legal content like parodies and memes will be caught in the crosshairs,” she wrote on Twitter.

Also included in Article 11 is a ‘link tax’ where companies such as Google and Facebook could have to pay news organisations to use their headlines on their sites. Campaigners claim this could undermine some of the most central technologies of the internet.

“Today, MEPs have decided to support the filtering of the internet to the benefit of big businesses in the music and publishing industries despite the huge public outcry,” said Siada El Ramly, Director General of EDiMA, the trade association representing the online platforms.

“We hope that Governments of the EU will hear their citizens’ concerns in the next stage of negotiations.”

Musicians have argued that these new rules could hurt the creative industries, by stifling the ability to collaborate.

“Musicians and artists thrive when they collaborate and share,” said musician Wyclef Jean, who is currently in Strasbourg arguing against the rules.

“I’ve worked with so many young artists – the future – who have sampled my music and succeeded. Upload filters or anything else that restricts this will stop artists from making and creating the future.”

If the new rules get passed in the final vote in January 2019, EU members’ will have to determine how they will enforce their own laws.

The new version of the rules includes hundreds of changes that have been made since the Parliament initially rejected them in July, such as allowing exemptions for the very smallest tech companies. But campaigners argue that the substance of the new directive is the same, including the parts referred to as a ‘link tax’ and the controversial automated filters.

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Maung Aye
Maung is a partner in our Corporate and Commercial department. He joined Mackrell Turner Garrett following corporate law positions in London and in a leading regional firm in Essex. Maung read European Legal Studies at Lancaster University and the Università degli Studi di Trento and is a fluent Italian speaker.