Wednesday, 27 March 2019 08:38

European Parliament passes new copyright rules Featured

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European Parliament passes new copyright rules Pixabay

New copyright rules have been passed by the European Parliament in Brussels overnight, making Internet publishers liable for content that is uploaded by users.

Chief among the online companies that will be hit by these rules are Google, YouTube and Facebook.

Members voted for the directive by 348 votes to 274, with 36 abstentions, marking the end of a legislative process that started in 2016.

A statement from the European Union said member states would now have to approve the Parliament's decision. Once the text was approved, it would then be published in the official journal and member states would be given two years for implementation.

Other key aspects of the new rules:

  • Some uploaded material, such as memes or GIFs, now specifically excluded from directive.
  • Hyperlinks to news articles, accompanied by “individual words or very short extracts”, can be shared freely.
  • Journalists must get a share of any copyright-related revenue obtained by their news publisher.
  • Start-up platforms are subject to lighter obligations.

The statement said the rules gave publishers the right to negotiate deals with news aggregators for stories used, and that journalists would benefit financially as a result.

It claimed that freedom of expression would not be affected as sharing snippets of news articles would not be excluded and could continue as before.

As to how the new rules change things, the statement said: "Currently, Internet companies have little incentive to sign fair licensing agreements with rights holders, because they are not considered liable for the content that their users upload. They are only obliged to remove infringing content when a rights holder asks them to do so.

"However, this is cumbersome for rights holders and does not guarantee them fair revenue. Making Internet companies liable will enhance rights holders’ chances (notably musicians, performers and script authors, as well as news publishers and journalists) to secure fair licensing agreements, thereby obtaining fairer remuneration for the use of their works exploited digitally."

Rapporteur Axel Voss, who was responsible for steering the rules through Parliament, said: "This directive is an important step towards correcting a situation which has allowed a few companies to earn huge sums of money without properly remunerating the thousands of creatives and journalists whose work they depend on.

"At the same time, the adopted text contains numerous provisions that will guarantee that the Internet remains a space for free expression. These provisions were not in themselves necessary, because the directive will not be creating any new rights for rights holders. Yet we listened to the concerns raised and chose to doubly guarantee the freedom of expression. The ‘meme’, the ‘gif’, the ‘snippet’ are now protected more than ever before.

"This is a directive which protects people’s living, safeguards democracy by defending a diverse media landscape, entrenches freedom of expression, and encourages start-ups and technological development. It helps make the Internet ready for the future, a space which benefits everyone, not only a powerful few.”

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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