At the end of March, the European Parliament passed new copyright legislation, the EU Copyright Directive, changing their almost two-decades-old copyright regulations. What gained significant attention since the news emerged in public was Article 13 (now 17) of the new Directive, which could change the way things are posted online.
The Repercussions of EU’s New Copyright Law and Article 13
The Copyright Directive is the first update done by the European Union on their copyright law, since 2001. And while for the most part, the new legislation is uncontroversial, some aspects of the new EU Copyright Directive are troubling, in particular, Article 13.
A recent update to the legislation changed Article 13 to Article 17, but we'll refer to it as Article 13 in this article because that's what most people know it as.
Article 13 legally obliges online content-sharing platforms, like YouTube, to remove copyrighted material from their websites. These firms will then have to find ways to prevent copyrighted content from re-appearing on their website. In other words, a wide array of platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and SoundCloud, will need to make some changes.
Intellectual property Lawyer at Linklaters, Kathy Berry, told CNBC that Article 13 could have “significant ramifications” to the tech firms that provide digital services within the European Union. Berry argues against the new law, saying that the service providers affected by Article 13 will have to prevent infringing content from being uploaded in the first place, instead of just taking it down after being identified.
Although the law aims to help artists and publishers and bring the EU’s copyright laws in line with the digital era we are living in, it certainly has its repercussions. If you own a website, for example, one in which people can post photos, memes, or video clips, you will be responsible for the content there, and as a website owner, you will have to find a solution to prevent unlicensed materials to appear on your website.
Opponents of the law warn that this will lead to the development of "upload filters" that will automatically blog potentially copyrighted material.
Critics believe that Article 13, together with Article 11, could lead to censorship on the internet within the EU, and some say this will lead websites and companies to “pull the plug” and terminate their services for the EU internet users.
Tech Firms Are Concerned, Artists and Media Firms Support the Changes
There are certainly many mixed opinions on the topic.
For artists and media firms, this move from the European Union was necessary, because they are losing out as a result of the unrestrained sharing of their content online.
For tech firms, however, this is a red alert and they believe the new regulations could damage their business. Although Article 13 excludes websites that are not at least three years old or with a revenue of over €10 million, the new law still does not weigh well with internet freedom fighters, companies, and individual users.
It won’t come as a surprise if some companies opt out on doing business in Europe, and change their market. There is also the possibility for this new law to turn into a form of censorship over the internet, sort of the European version of the Great Firewall.
If any of these predictions come true, users will be left with only a few options to regain their internet freedom. One of them is a virtual private network (VPN), which allows users to access the internet without dealing with censorship, and bypasses most geo-limitations you could be dealing with.
All in all, time will tell whether Article 13 will damage the freedom of the internet in the EU, or improve it. For now, things are not looking promising, but the best would be to wait and see. In the meantime, it would be smart to get familiar with VPNs, just in case the worst does happen.