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Home » Copyright

European Parliament votes in favour of copyright reform

Submitted by on 12 Sep 2018 – 13:20

European Parliament voted to approve a controversial reform of the online copyright regulation, while carefully adding safeguards to protect small firms and freedom of expression. The Parliament voted with 438 in favor, 226 against and 39 abstentions for the amendments, supporting amendments put forward by Axel Voss MEP who has been actively driving the reform at the European Parliament

The European Parliament’s changes to the Commission’s original proposal aimed to make certain that artists — notably musicians, performers and script authors, as well as news publishers and journalists — are paid for their work when it is used by sharing platforms such as YouTube or Facebook, and news aggregators such as Google News.

After the vote, rapporteur Axel Voss MEP said, “I am very glad that despite the very strong lobbying campaign by the internet giants, there is now a majority in the full house backing the need to protect the principle of fair pay for European creatives. There has been much heated debate around this directive and I believe that Parliament has listened carefully to the concerns raised. Thus, we have addressed concerns raised about innovation by excluding small and micro platforms or aggregators from the scope. I am convinced that once the dust has settled, the internet will be as free as it is today, creators and journalists will be earning a fairer share of the revenues generated by their works, and we will be wondering what all the fuss was about.”

Read all about the controversy

Welcoming today’s vote at the European Parliament, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip and Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel made a joint statement:

“It is a strong and positive signal and an essential step to achieving our common objective of modernising the copyright rules in the European Union. Our aim for this reform is to bring tangible benefits for EU citizens, researchers, educators, writers, artists, press and cultural heritage institutions and to open up the potential for more creativity and content by clarifying the rules and making them fit for the digital world. ”

Aiming to safeguard free speech, the Commission stands ready to start working with the European Parliament and the Council of the EU, so that the directive can be approved as soon as possible, ideally by the end of 2018.

“We are fully committed to working with the co-legislators in order to achieve a balanced and positive outcome enabling a true modernisation of the copyright legislation that Europe needs.”

Fair pay for artists and journalists while encouraging start-ups

Parliament’s position toughens the Commission’s proposed plans to make online platforms and aggregators liable for copyright infringements. This would also apply to snippets, where only a small part of a news publisher’s text is displayed. In practice, this liability requires these parties to pay right holders for copyrighted material that they make available. Parliament’s text also specifically requires that journalists themselves, and not just their publishing houses, benefit from remuneration stemming from this liability requirement.

At the same time, in an attempt to encourage start-ups and innovation, the text now exempts small and micro platforms from the directive.

Protecting freedom of expression

It includes provisions to ensure that copyright law is observed online without unfairly hampering the freedom of expression that has come to define the internet.

Thus, merely sharing hyperlinks to articles, together with “individual words” to describe them, will be free of copyright constraints.

Any action taken by platforms to check that uploads do not breach copyright rules must be designed in such a way as to avoid catching “non-infringing works”. These platforms will moreover be required to establish rapid redress systems (operated by the platform’s staff, not algorithms) through which complaints can be lodged when an upload is wrongly taken down.

Wikipedia and open source software platforms will not be affected

The text also specifies that uploading to online encyclopaedias in a non-commercial way, such as Wikipedia, or open source software platforms, such as GitHub, will automatically be excluded from the requirement to comply with copyright rules.

Stronger negotiating rights for authors and performers

Parliament’s text also strengthens the negotiating rights of authors and performers, by enabling them to “claim” additional remuneration from the party exploiting their rights when the remuneration originally agreed is “disproportionately” low compared to the benefits derived.

The text adds that these benefits should include “indirect revenues”. It would also empower authors and performers to revoke or terminate the exclusivity of an exploitation licence for their work if the party holding the exploitation rights is deemed not to be exercising this right.

The proposal is now open for negotiations with the European Commission and the Council of the EU.