European politicians have voted in favour of controversial new copyright rules for the internet.
In the European Parliament, MEPs cast 348 votes in favour and 274 against the 'Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market', with 36 abstentions. The European Parliament said the directive aims to ensure that copyright law also applies to the internet. It added that YouTube, Facebook and Google News are some of the internet household names that will be "most directly affected" by this legislation.
Critics have dubbed one feature of the new legislation a 'link-tax' because it gives publishers power to negotiate deals with internet giants like Google that use their content to power its Google News service. Another section of the legislation has been criticised for potentially introducing internet censorship by requiring companies to take responsibility for content uploaded by users. This has lead to fears that so-called 'upload filters' will limit what people are allowed to upload and, as well as stopping copyrighted material from being uploaded, will also prevent lots of legitimate content from being shared.
Europe argues the directive aims to help musicians, performers and script authors, as well as news publishers, to negotiate better deals for the use of their works when these feature on internet platforms. It does this by making internet platforms directly liable for content uploaded to their sites. News aggregators will only be able to use very short snippets of text or otherwise may have to pay.
SEE: IT pro's guide to GDPR compliance (free PDF)
However, uploading protected works for quotation, criticism, review, caricature, parody or pastiche has been protected even more than it was before, ensuring that memes and Gifs will continue to be available and shareable on online platforms. Uploading works to online encyclopaedias in a non-commercial way, such as Wikipedia, or open-source software platforms, such as GitHub, will automatically be excluded from the scope of this directive, while Europe said startup platforms will be subject to lighter obligations than more established ones.
It said that internet companies currently have little incentive to sign fair licensing agreements with rights holders, because they are not considered liable for the content that their users upload. Making internet companies liable makes it easier for creatives to get a better deal, Europe said.
European parliament rapporteur Axel Voss said the directive is an important step towards correcting a situation which has allowed "a few companies to earn huge sums of money without properly remunerating the thousands of creatives and journalists whose work they depend on".
Not everyone is convinced: Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda called the vote a 'dark day for internet freedom'.
It will now be down to member states to approve Parliament's decision in the coming weeks: if the member states accept the text adopted by the European Parliament, it will take effect after publication in the official journal and member states will then have two years to implement it.
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