Members of the European Parliament have adopted a new series of regulations for copyright across the coalition countries – in defiance of major tech firms that opposed them and warnings from experts that it could trigger the extinction of the web for residents of the union.
The reforms will, for the first time, hold web platforms legally responsible for enforcing copyright, requiring them to check everything that their users post to prevent infringement.
And it will allow news companies to demand payment when their copy is aggregated on sites like Google News. Or anywhere else.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which repeatedly had warned of the fallout from the plan, said it doesn’t look good.
Noting that five million people signed online petitions opposing the rules, and tens of thousands protested against them in recent days, the parliament adopted the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive.
“There’s now little that can stop these provisions from becoming the law of the land across Europe. It’s theoretically possible that the final text will fail to gain a majority of member states’ approval when the European Council meets later this month, but this would require at least one key country to change its mind. Toward that end, German and Polish activists are already re-doubling their efforts to shift their government’s key votes,” the privacy organization said.
“If that attempt fails, the results will be drawn-out, and chaotic. Unlike EU Regulations like the GDPR, which become law on passage by the central EU institutions, EU Directives have to be transposed: written into each member country’s national law. Countries have until 2021 to transpose the Copyright Directive, but EU rarely keeps its members to that deadline, so it could take even longer.”
The organization explained now those most in support of the restrictions will adopt them first, and those nations where there’s a second perspective will take longer.
“Which brings us to the future prospect of legal challenges in Europe’s courts. Again, unlike the GDPR, which gave existing regulatory bodies the clear power to adjudicate and enforce that law and its ambiguities, it’s unclear who is supposed to impose consistency in the EU between, say, a harsh French regime and a potentially softer German solution, or interpret the Directive’s notoriously incoherent text,” the group warned.
“That means it will fall by default to Europe’s judicial system, and the long, slow road to a final decision by the EU’s superior court, the European Court of Justice.”
The organization said there are major threats surfacing.
“Whatever internet companies and organizations do to comply with twenty-seven or more national laws – from dropping links to European news sites entirely, to upping their already over-sensitive filtering systems, or seeking to strike deals with key media conglomerates – will be challenged by one rightsholder faction or another.”
WND reported last month when representatives of European Union governments voted in favor of a plan to rewrite copyright rules.
Reuters warned that under the changes, Google and Facebook would be “forced to share revenue with the creative industries and remove copyright-protected content on YouTube or Instagram.”
EFF said small businesses, entertainment conglomerates, artists’ groups, tech experts and human rights experts all have condemned the changes, with reason.
“Some of its clauses gave artists and scientists much-needed protections: artists were to be protected from the worst ripoffs by entertainment companies, and scientists could use copyrighted works as raw material for various kinds of data analysis and scholarship,” EFF reported. “Both of these clauses have now been gutted to the point of uselessness, leaving the giant entertainment companies with unchecked power to exploit creators and arbitrarily hold back scientific research.”
The EFF said the ban on having anything – ever – posted that infringes a copyright, even momentarily “is impossible.”
“The closest any service can come to it is spending hundreds of millions of euros to develop automated copyright filters. Those filters will subject all communications of every European to interception and arbitrary censorship if a black-box algorithm decides their text, pictures, sounds or videos are a match for a known copyrighted work. They are a gift to fraudsters and criminals, to say nothing of censors, both government and private,” EFF explained.
Agence France-Press said the vote was 348 yes to 274 no and 36 abstentions.