EU Copyright Directive: MEPs reach tentative accord

EU Copyright Directive
© iStock/ANNECORDON

The European Parliament, Council and Commission have formed a political agreement on the future of EU copyright legislation.

The new rules, earlier drafts of which were the subject of much heated discussion due to their perceived impact on online memes, are designed to update the EU’s legal framework on copyright to meet the needs of modern producers and consumers. In drawing up the revised directive, MEPs aimed to strengthen the rights of artists, creators and performers; while shoring up freedom of expression and compelling giant online platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Google News to take responsibility for the content they host.

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, said: “The long awaited Copyright Directive adoption is a crucial cornerstone for our Digital Single Market. By providing a clearer legal framework fit for the digital world, it will strengthen the cultural and creative sectors, and bring added value to the European citizens.”

The directive boosts the position of content creators, allowing them to negotiate “appropriate and proportionate” payment for the use of their material by publishers and aggregators. Creators and performers will be able to renegotiate the terms of their remuneration if the income deriving from their original agreement is “disproportionately” low in comparison to the benefits the platform gleans from publication.

Small enterprises and startups will be subject to less stringent obligations than more established bodies; while non-commercial and open source platforms, such as Wikipedia and GitHub, will be excluded from the directive. MEPs emphasised that the sharing of snippets of articles, as well as “uploading protected works for purposes of quotation, criticism, review, caricature, parody or pastiche” would be protected in the new rules: EU consumers had been concerned about the directive’s effect on the use of protected material in the creation of gifs and memes.

Rapporteur Axel Voss said: “This deal 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, this deal contains numerous provisions which 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 more protected than ever before.”

The provisional text of the EU Copyright Directive must now be approved by the European Parliament and Council; after which it can be submitted for formal adoption.

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