The European Parliament has voted overwhelmingly in favor of an amended version of the Copyright Directive that was originally rejected by Members of the European Parliament this summer. After Articles 11 and 13 — the link tax and piracy filter requirements– were revised, the lawmakers passed the copyright law 438 to 226 on September 12. The passage of the law generated harsh criticism from Reddit and the Wikimedia Foundation, the parent organization of Wikipedia.
“Today’s vote dealt a significant blow to the open internet, and to smaller companies like Reddit,” a Reddit representative told The Verge. “It is disappointing to see the Parliament disregard the concerns of those constituents and experts who know the internet best– including its very architects. We’re evaluating what this means for Reddit, and we will continue to keep our community informed.”
The law was designed to give publishers a way to monetize when companies link to their content. It also requires platforms like YouTube to implement filters to prevent users from sharing unlicensed materials. Critics have argued in the past that monitoring the internet would create an undue burden for smaller platforms, and that filtering could lead to censorship. In passing the legislation, parliament essentially is reversing an earlier ruling by the EU court in Luxembourg. In that decision, the court argued that sites should not be compelled to install filters to check for privacy.
In its initial opposition of the proposed legislation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation penned an open letter arguing that “Article 13 takes an unprecedented step toward the transformation of the internet from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users.” Essentially, even content like GIFs and memes are at stake.
The revised articles included exemptions for Wikipedia and Github, and the link tax would not be exercised for sharing of hyperlinks. This amendment would preserve the 2016 EU court ruling stating that simply linking to copyrighted material does not constitute infringement. Yet, despite being excluded from the law, Wikimedia remains steadfast in its opposition.
“Today, the European Parliament voted to adopt new rules that entrench outdated copyright policies and impose even greater barriers to access to knowledge online,” the foundation said in a statement to The Verge. “Despite an outpouring of support from European citizens, including the Wikimedia community of volunteers, Parliament passed amendments that would require pre-filtering of uploads to internet platforms and failed to institute freedom of panorama protections across the European Union. We are disappointed by this outcome and the missed opportunity to modernize copyright for the digital age. Wikimedia remains firmly committed and will continue to advocate for an open, balanced vision for copyright which enables everyone to learn and create online.”
Google has been more restrained in its reaction, noting that it is committed to working with legislatures to give people “access to quality news and creative content online.” Twitter and Microsoft did not provide comment. The legislation will face a final vote in January 2019, The Verge said, and if it passes, individual EU member states will have to interpret how to enforce the directive.
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