News & Insights

The EU Copyright Directive, good news or bad news for the Internet?

Soraya Salhi, a solicitor in our Commercial & Technology team provides an overview on the recently approved EU Copyright Directive and what it means for the Internet.

The European Parliament has recently approved the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (“Directive”) which will now go to the European Counsel for approval on 9 April 2019.

In a nutshell, the Directive has been introduced to update copyright law for the digital age, in particular to address the widespread reproduction of content online. Research indicates that many internet users access content (including articles, music and film clips) via social networks, information aggregators or search engines without clicking through.

The key changes introduced by the Directive are:

  • To grant online publishers direct control over the “online use of their publications by information society service providers” (e.g. internet platforms such as YouTube and Google News).
  • To require websites which normally host user-generated content to take “effective and proportionate” measures in order to prevent the unauthorised posting of copyrighted content – or face being held liable for their users’ actions.

The EU’s view is that this Directive will help those in creative industries (such as journalists, writers, singers and musicians) by giving them stronger rights and consequently greater leverage in negotiations with the large platforms publishing their content. At the same time the Directive recognises the importance of freedom of expression by allowing users to use existing works for the purposes of quotation, criticism, review, caricature and parody.

However the Directive has been subject to much criticism, the main objection being that it will make it more difficult for websites to link to third party content. Such websites will need to obtain licences from the rights holders before publishing content and they will need to ensure that their users do not publish unauthorised content.

Advocates against article 17 of the Directive (formerly known as article 13) have argued that:

  • Content platforms may be forced to implement some kind of upload filters to defend themselves against potential user-related copyright violations claims.
  • Only large websites will have the means and organisation to obtain licences from rights holders, meaning smaller companies will be pushed out.

What happens next?

Once the Directive has been approved by the European Counsel, EU member states will have 2 years to implement it into national law.

Despite the continued uncertainty around Brexit, it is possible that the UK may have left the EU before the end of the 2 year period for implementing the Directive. However even if this happens, the UK may elect to adopt similar legislation of its own, particularly if it decides to remain closely aligned to the EU and the single market.

For those businesses who may be affected by these changes, we suggest that you keep a close eye on how the situation develops over the next 12-24 months so as not to be caught off guard if the way you operate needs to change to take account of the requirements in the Directive.

If you have any questions about the issues raised in this article, please contact Soraya Salhi or one of the other members of FSP’s Commercial & Technology team.