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European Union approves of the controversial Copyright Directive

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This Wednesday the European Parliament voted in favor over an amended version of the Copyright Directive that was originally rejected by Members of the European Parliament this summer, calling it a necessary overhaul to protect Europe’s cultural heritage and create a level playing field between big online platforms and publishers, broadcasters and artists, however, many companies and websites such as  Mozilla, Wikipedia, Reddit and regular consumers are speaking out against the outcome, arguing that this directive will only serve to oppose the liberties of regular internet users and hinder hatchling news and recreational websites from getting a foothold in the market .

Of the European lawmakers, 438 voted in favor while 226 were against, with 39 abstentions.

French President Emmanuel Macron called the outcome a “great advance for Europe”, while the Commission’s digital chief Andrus Ansip said it sent a strong and positive signal of a reform designed to protect EU researchers, educators, writers, media and cultural heritage institutions.

Two of the elements of the Copyright Directive have stood out in the debates over the issue, article 11 and 13:

Article 11 would require online platforms to acquire licenses from publishers to be allowed refer to news and other content from said publishers. While proponents said it was intended to make Google and Facebook share the profit they make with news organizations that are struggling in the modern market, critics have pointed out it could penalize linking to content for the purpose of criticism or commentary, and have taken to call this article the “Link Tax”.

Article 13 requires the automatic removal of any material that appears to violate copyright, proponents say this article was made to protect small time content creators and publishers from having their content published by another entity without receiving credit, critics argue that these copyrighted materials would include include sampling, news footage, public domain parliamentary recordings, and even “memes”, and that automatic filtering tools will be unable to discern fair comment, satire, criticism, and parody, from the copyrighted material they’re supposed to remove . Platforms would also be held legally liable for copyright violations by their users.

These articles held back the directive back in summer, but Parliament approved of the amended version, which exempt Wikipedia and Github from the legislation, and the “Link Tax” would not be exercised for sharing of hyperlinks, this however, has not dissuaded Wikimedia, the parent company of Wikipedia, from voicing their displeasure .

“Today, the European Parliament voted to adopt new rules that entrench outdated copyright policies and impose even greater barriers to access to knowledge online. Despite an outpouring of support from European citizens, including the Wikimedia community of volunteers, Parliament passed amendments that would require pre-filtering of uploads to internet platforms and failed to institute freedom of panorama protections across the European Union. We are disappointed by this outcome and the missed opportunity to modernize copyright for the digital age. Wikimedia remains firmly committed and will continue to advocate for an open, balanced vision for copyright which enables everyone to learn and create online.”

Google, while not directly criticizing the directive, stated that “People want access to quality news and creative content online, we’ve always said that more innovation and collaboration are the best way to achieve a sustainable future for the European news and creative sectors, and we’re committed to continued close partnership with these industries.”

The legislation will face a final vote in January 2019,and if it passes, each individual EU state member will have to interpret how to enforce the directive.

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