On 26 March 2019, following a lengthy process, the European Parliament has given final approval to the Copyright Directive, aimed at the modernization of the EU copyright regime. Members of parliament voted 348 in favor of the law and 274 against. Before voting on the reform proposal, a vote was held on whether or not to address proposed amendments – notably the exclusion of the law’s most debated clause, Article 13 or the “upload filter.” Members of parliament opposed a decision on the proposed amendments, in a close vote with 312 in favor but 317 against addressing any amendments.
Debate Surrounding Articles 11 and 13
Politicians have debated the legislation for more than two years. Nevertheless, the provisions of the Copyright Directive that attracted the most media attention—Article 11 or the ‘link tax’ and Article 13 or the ‘upload filter’—have remained largely intact.
Article 11, the ‘link tax’, will allow press publishers to claim remuneration for the online use of their publications by charging platforms when they display snippets of online content. Critics argue that it effectively imposes a requirement for paying a fee to link to a website.
Article 13, the ‘upload filter’, imposes obligations on platform providers to control and take action against the upload of unauthorized content and helps rights-holders to better monetize and control the distribution of their content. Critics argue that while the provision does not explicitly call for upload filters, they will be an inevitability as sites seek to avoid penalties. Such filters, however, will likely be inaccurate and prone to overblocking legitimate material. Further, so critics, given the cost of deploying such filters, the Directive may have the opposite effect to politicians’ intent—solidifying the dominance of US tech giants over online spaces.
Status and Timeline to Adoption of the Directive
Once formally adopted by the European Council, the Directive will come into force 20 days after it is published in the Official Journal of the European Union. Once the Directive takes effect, the EU Member States will have 24 months to transpose the new rules into their respective national legislation. As with the transposition of any directive, EU member states may vary in the manner in which they interpret the requirements of the Copyright Directive and/or implement it (or supplement it). As a result, the Copyright Directive is likely to be implemented in a harmonised but not uniform manner throughout the EU.