The highly controversial copyright reform, the most topical of which is Article 17 (previously numbered as Article 13) of the new copyright law, has yet again taken the news and the internet by storm today following the successful adoption of the new Copyright Directive at the European Parliament in Strasbourg with 348 votes in favour and 274 against.

The heavy dispute on whether the new laws on copyright herald the downfall of the digital age or accord better protection to artists has attracted several criticism and debate from all around the globe since the process to modernise the current copyright laws to the online world first started two years ago.

The EU Copyright Directive: Restrictions and Filters

The reform was backed up by artists and media companies, who want to obtain a better return from online platforms (such as YouTube and Facebook) that use their content. On the other hand, Silicon Valley tech giants such as YouTube-owner Google, which make huge profits from adverts, and proponents of the freedom of the internet who fear that web freedom restrictions are inevitable and online creativity and innovation will be stifled, strongly opposed the reform.

In fact, the battle on the previously numbered Article 13, which has remained largely intact with today’s vote, will essentially lead to the widespread introduction of “upload filters” that will scan all user content uploaded on the internet to detect and remove any copyrighted material. This has attracted protests around forty cities and a five-million signed petition for it to be removed entirely was also made. Whilst the agreed text of the previously numbered Article 13 does not explicitly call for such filters to be introduced or enforced, many critics such as Julia Reda, an MEP for the German Pirate Party, say that the introduction of such filters are inevitable for sites to avoid penalties and comply with the wording of the law.

A New Marketing Copyright Protecting Creativity

On the other hand, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip and Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel, welcomed the approval of the Directive stating that: “This Directive protects creativity in the digital age and ensures that the EU citizens benefit from wider access to content and new guarantees to fully protect their freedom of expression online … At the same time, the Directive will improve the position of creators in their negotiations with big platforms which largely benefit from their content.”

Striking a Balance within the EU Copyright Directive

Whilst those in favour of the new Copyright Directive opine that it will strike a balance between tech giants and content creators - allowing copyright holders more power over the online distribution of their content, critics retain the view that the new laws on copyright will restrict content sharing on the internet and hinder creativity and innovation. How this will work out in practice will remain to be seen since the text adopted today by the European Parliament will now need to be formally endorsed by the Council of the European Union in the coming weeks and once published in the Official Journal of the European Union, Member States will have twenty-four months to transpose the new legislation into their national legislation.

Today’s agreement is part of a broader initiative to adapt and modernise EU copyright laws to the digital age as part of the Digital Single Market strategy.