On 26 March 2019, the European Parliament voted in favour of the new EU Copyright Directive (the “Directive”) marking the end of lengthy negotiations and delays. The aim of the Directive is to enhance the position of rights’ holders in relation to the use of their material on the internet but, in particular, Articles 11 and 13 have attracted criticism and much lobbying from interested parties.

  • Article 11 includes new requirements aimed at making search engines and news aggregators pay licensing fees to publications such as newspaper whose work is aggregated on their platforms. Critics of this provision claim that it effectively imposes a requirement to pay for a link to a website.
  • Article 13 aims to ensure copyright holders receive licensing fees from user-generated content platforms such as YouTube and Facebook where their copyright works are being incorporated into such content (eg music or images). Opponents claim that the drafting of this clause will force technology companies to filter content before it is uploaded and internet users have been fearful of a so called “meme ban”. The European Parliament has stated that memes would be “specifically excluded” from the Directive, although it is not clear how this would work in practice.

For further information on these controversial articles see our previous blog post here.

Although European Parliament Rapporteur Axel Voss has stated that the legislation has been designed to protect people’s livelihoods and create a “fair and balanced result”, there is still a degree of legal ambiguity in the text. In particular, it is not yet clear how the EU plans to enforce certain provisions such as Article 13 and guidance is needed on which service providers will be caught and how they should approach compliance with the new, stringent rules.

MEPs adopted the Directive by 348 votes in favour, 274 against and 36 abstentions. EU Member States will now decide whether to accept the text adopted by the European Parliament, and it will take effect following publication in the official journal. Member States will then have two years to transpose the new rules into their national legislation.

With the UK’s imminent departure from the EU it remains to be seen whether the UK government will implement the Directive in whole, in part or not at all. The obligation to implement the Directive will only apply to the UK if the 24 month deadline implementation deadline falls within any transitional period and there will only be a transitional period if there is a “deal” rather than a “no deal” resolution to the current Brexit negotiations.