Internet Freedom and the Pending Changes to Copyright Laws

On Monday, the most controversial changes to copyright laws in the last twenty years were passed by the EU parliament. These changes will be the most significant since the implementation of the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), when they come into effect.

Sweeping Amendments to Copyright Regulations Approved by MEPs

Fierce battles have been raging between freedom of expression groups, internet activists and corporate lobbyists over articles eleven and thirteen, two of the most contentious clauses in the copyright amendments.

What is the Effect of These Changes Online? Do the Changes Affect My Ability to Upload Content on the Internet?

Even though tech firms such as Google have issued a warning to the effect that they will automatically remove more content, users will still be able to upload content online as provided for under the law.

Copyrighted content, including videos and music, is already automatically removed by tech companies such as Facebook and YoutTube. Original content creators have the option to track, block or monetise content on YouTube after uploaded content has been scanned against a collection of files submitted by the owners of the content. Tech companies that run automatic scans will be held liable for any copyrighted content that finds its way onto their platforms according to the provisions of the new laws. Companies may need to look at assurance services to help them navigate the changed conditions.

Reasons Why Big Technology Companies Oppose These Amendments

According to the big tech companies, the existing arrangements provide sufficient compensation to content creators and the new amendments are impractical. European users could be denied access to videos altogether, YouTube has warned.

Others Protesting against the Amendments

Since blocking user-generated content using other copyright protected content in any means, including simple quotes, remixes and criticism is the best way to ensure compliance with the new changes, campaigners argue that free expression on the internet will suffer as a result.

As a matter of fact, since the biggest technology companies are the only ones that have the resources needed to comply with these legal provisions, some warn that the amendments can only help such companies.

How about News on the Internet?

Article eleven particularly involves the sharing of news articles while thirteen limits the power of tech companies when it comes to sharing content generated by users.

Tech firms should play a part in funding quality journalism since they earn money by sharing news, according to publishers who say that this burden is becoming increasingly heavier for them to bear. To safeguard article sharing rights, the new provisions introduce new requirements on “information sector service providers”. While non-commercial content publishers such as Wikipedia are not required to abide by the provision, Facebook and Google News will only be able to show glimpses of articles.

How Will Memes Be Affected?

Since most of the available sharable content uses movie and TV scenes, it is argued that the new amendments, with their rules against including copyright protected material in uploaded content, could mean the end of memes.

To protect the use of such content for criticism, caricature, pastiche, parody, review and quotation purposes, some additional changes were made this year. However, since there is no filter that can differentiate between infringing and parody uploads, tech companies find this new change impossible to uphold.

Implementation of the Amendments

From May or June this year, when the new rules come into force, EU member nations will have two years until the amendments also come into force. If the UK has left the EU by then, it will have the right to decide whether it wishes to abide by the new rules or not.

It is however expected that the UK will follow Europe’s move regardless of whether it leaves the EU with a deal or not.

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