The European Parliament and the European Council have reached an agreement on copyright rules which will force tech giants, like Google and Facebook, to make “best efforts” to buy licences for any content they aggregate.
“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,” Axel Voss, a German politician and Member of the European Parliament, said before adding:
“This is a deal 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.”
The proposed new law will make content aggregators liable for any copyright infringement by platform users with some exceptions like non-commercial uses, such as Wikipedia, or open source platforms like GitHub.
“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…
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,” a just released statement says.
Some have criticized the proposal as a link tax, with Julia Reda, a member of the Pirate Party and of the European Parliament, stating:
“Should a court ever find their licensing or filtering efforts not fierce enough, sites are directly liable for infringements as if they had committed them themselves. This massive threat will lead platforms to over-comply with these rules to stay on the safe side, further worsening the impact on our freedom of speech.”
On the other hand, tech giants like Google in particular have been cannibalizing content producers, taking the best part of their efforts to show them in the search results where they make profits in the billions and share none of it with those actually producing speech.
“Sharing snippets of news articles will not engage the rights of the media house which produced the shared article. The deal however also contains provisions to avoid news aggregators abusing this allowance. The ‘snippet’ can therefore continue to appear in a Google News newsfeeds, for example, or when an article is shared on Facebook, provided it is ‘very short.’
Uploading protected works for purposes of quotation, criticism, review, caricature, parody or pastiche has been protected, ensuring that memes and Gifs will continue to be available and shareable on online platforms,” the EU statement says.
This will now go to a vote of the European parliament in addition to a a vote by ministers or prime ministers of member states.
It’s outcome may transform the digital landscape in what might be one of the most important piece of legislation to affect the internet in about three decades.