News & Views

EU’s Digital Copyright Rules Take a Step Forward

20 September 2018

Authors: Sini Matkonen and Emilia Uusitalo

European Parliament Voted on a New Directive

The EU’s highly debated copyright reform is advancing as the European Parliament voted in favour of the Copyright Directive on 12 September 2018. The new digital copyright rules will impose new obligations and liabilities on online platforms. The Copyright Directive was first published two years ago, in 2016, and it has been under heated debate between its proponents and opponents ever since. Although the new obligations are mainly directed at tech giants, the Copyright Directive has also raised concerns among consumers. The exact wording of the Copyright Directive is expected to be finalised early next year, and the Directive is due to enter into force by 2021.

What Will Be New?

The most significant novelties introduced by the new Copyright Directive will be the increased protection and stronger negotiating rights granted to copyright holders. Artists and journalists will be entitled to be paid for their work when it is used on content sharing platforms, such as YouTube and Facebook, as well as news aggregators, such as Google News. Online platforms will also face stricter liability rules for online copyright infringements. In practice, platforms will have to filter the shared content to ensure that no infringing material is available on the platform and that any lawful material that has been unduly removed from the platform will be restored quickly.

Clarifications Made to the Wordings by the Parliament

The opponents of the Copyright Directive have expressed their concern, for example, on whether linking to news articles will be prohibited as a result of the rights of the journalists.  However, hyperlinks to news articles together with individual words to describe them may be freely shared under the proposed Directive. As a response to another concern raised by the proposed Directive, small and micro platform, non-commercial online encyclopaedias such as Wikipedia, as well as open source software platforms such as Github, will remain unaffected by the introduction of the new copyright rules.

Obligation to Monitor Online Content

As no major changes are expected to the text of the Directive approved by the Parliament, it seems that the costs of the content sharing platforms will increase in the future, as the platforms will be required to obtain copyright licences for the online content shared by them and the platform users. Additionally, monitoring the online content for the copyright infringements may also limit free discussion and online content sharing, as private companies owning several platforms, which are remarkable communication tools in today’s society, will be held responsible for monitoring the platform content for copyright infringements. The Copyright Directive aims to tackle this problem by imposing requirements on the Member States to put in place effective and expeditious complaints and redress mechanisms in case of disputes over non-infringing content that has been filtered. However, the monitoring obligation allocates further responsibilities to ensure that while the copyright infringements are filtered, all the non-infringing material is still published to platform providers without delay.