EU Commission explains modified copyright directive amid criticism

Photo: European Parliament

The European Commission on Friday sought to clarify the scope and liability of revised copyright rules adopted last year in an effort to defuse criticism from France, Poland, EU broadcasters and internet activists. This Monday 7 June marks the deadline for Member States to transpose the new EU copyright rules into national law.

The revamped copyright directive, the first overhaul in two decades, aimed to provide fair compensation for the bloc’s $1 trillion creative industry and its 11.7 million employees. It triggered a fierce lobbying battle, pitting artists and news publishers against tech companies, internet activists and consumer groups, with France also joining the fray while Poland took its grievance to a court.

A key provision, Article 17, backed by the creative industry, would force Google-owned YouTube, Facebook’s Instagram and other sharing platforms to install filters to prevent users from uploading copyrighted materials.

The platforms can be sued for making copyright-infringing content available to the public, even where it has been uploaded by their users. Critics however say filters are costly and could lead to erroneous blocking.

The Commission in its policy paper published on Friday said Article 17 would only apply to online service providers and online audio and video streaming service providers which make money from copyrighted work uploaded to their platforms by their users.

Not-for-profit online encyclopaedias and educational bodies, open source software platforms and online marketplaces would be exempt from the rule.

Companies may escape liability if they can show that they have made their best efforts to obtain authorisation for copyrighted works on their platforms and acted speedily to remove content when notified.

To mollify internet activists, the Commission said Article 17 should not apply to caricature, parody, criticism, review and quotation.

It said automated blocking of content should only be limited to manifestly infringing uploads and that EU countries should provide a complaint and redress mechanism to service providers so that their users can use it in the event of disputes.

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