The new EU Copyright Law - what to make of it?

Pull up a chair, grab a coffee and have a read through our stories, opinions and advice.

If you’d like our latest blog delivered directly to your inbox, please subscribe!

The new EU Copyright Law - what to make of it?

Last month, members of the European voted in favour of a controversial update to copyright law, proposing tighter rules around what can be posted on platforms such as Facebook and YouTube. As someone who works within the digital communications field, the nature of this latest legislation came with a definite impact. However the more you read around the strong opinions on both sides, the more you realise where this has come from and why it’s happening now. But what is it going to mean for small and medium sized businesses and how is it going to work practically?

The European Parliament approved the latest version of legislation on the 12th September in a 438 to 226 vote, with the more specific details not yet public. The most controversial points amongst the laws are articles 11 and 13. Article 11, if implemented, will require websites to pay content publishers such as newspapers and magazines to use ‘snippets’ of their work. Critics have branded this the “link tax”, although links and search engine listings will be immune from the rules. The fees could also apply to sharing news articles on social media, but the details on who exactly will be affected, and to what degree is still unclear.

Article 13 outlines that content sharing platforms will be responsible for removing copyrighted material. This makes them directly accountable for the content their users post. Websites will have to develop and implement ‘upload filters’ to all types of content in an effort to stop users uploading copyrighted material. Publishing platforms such as Facebook and Twitter will have to make sure the text users post does not violate copyright law. Similarly, Instagram would have to monitor for copyrighted images. Perhaps most controversially, YouTube would be liable for copyrighted material, requiring them to have licenses with music and film rights holders. This will ultimately allow artists to negotiate better royalties, whilst protecting their work from being pirated online. Paul McCartney is just one of music’s big names who has come out in support of the law. In a letter to the European Parliament asking them to vote in favour of article 13 he states “article 13 would address the value gap and help assure a sustainable future for the music ecosystem and its creators.”

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki strongly opposes the legislation, saying it “poses a threat to both your livelihood and your ability to share your voice with the world”. Other strong opposition has come from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Internet architect Tim Berners-Lee. Berners-Lee in particular has insinuated that the law would transform the Internet from an open platform into a tool for “automated surveillance and control.”

There are strong feelings on both sides of the argument. With artists and filmmakers coming out in force supporting the law. British director Mike Leigh launched an appeal at the Venice Film Festival earlier this year calling on EU lawmakers to pass the legislation. Some of Europe’s biggest news agencies have also urged MEP’s to vote for the law, as they hold Google and Facebook accountable for “plundering” the news and “undermining” their business models, no doubt referring to the spread of ‘fake news’.

Currently, it is individual Internet users who are responsible for the content they upload. If a person uploads a video to YouTube with a hit pop song playing over the top, they cannot monetize the video and it may even be taken down if usage doesn’t meet their ‘fair use’ guidelines. Ultimately the platform is not held accountable as long as they have an active approach to removing this kind of content when they are notified of its presence.

These new laws could have a colossal impact on the way businesses and brands operate. For MAXX, we may no longer be able to share interesting news stories on social media without having to pay some kind of fee to the original publisher. It raises a lot of questions about the severity of the spread of fake news and how social media has continued to operate without more firm guidelines in place. But it also raises issues around censorship, freedom of speech and large corporations monitoring our online activity.

The laws have not been finalised and still face a final vote at the European parliament in January. As more details from within this legislation come to light, all businesses will need to assess how it will impact their ability to communicate, and how that in turn will affect their overall business. As an experienced agency, we handle the creation of content for printed materials and websites, as well as the creation and delivery of social media content for our own business as well as our clients. This story is something we will continue to monitor as it progresses through the system. There is no doubt that the law is behind the times we live in, but are these laws the right answer? We’d love to know your thoughts. If you are interested in how this could affect your business, or are looking for assistance is creating content, get in touch via [email protected] today.