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European Union Passes Game-Changing Copyright Reform: Here's Why It's A Huge Deal
After a long-fought battle to ensure rights holders earn their fair share from user-generated platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, the European Parliament voted 348-274 to approve an updated version of the European Union (EU) Copyright Directive. The legislation provides sweeping copyright reform requiring sites that rely on user-generated content to be held to the same copyright infringement accountability as other digital music services such as Spotify and Apple Music.
Passed provisionally as Article 13, but renamed Article 17 in the updated version, the new law will require technology platforms that provide content in Europe to finally comply with copyright standards and implement copyright enforcement. The law also makes these platforms liable for copyright violations from user-generated content hosted on their sites, making a huge step toward better protection of creators' rights.
"The European Union has laid the foundation for a better and fairer digital environment -- one in which creators will be in a stronger position to negotiate fair license fees when their works are used by big online platforms," said Gadi Oron director general of CISAC, the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers.
In honor of the passage of the new copyright reform in Europe, let's take a look at a few key components and how this directive will impact—and influence—creators and platforms.
Why This Is A Win For Creators
Songwriters, artists, publishers, and record labels are celebrating this new direction because, in essence, it will ultimately replace the chaotic notice and takedown system with the use of effective technologies, like Content ID, to mitigate any infringement before it goes live online. Platforms will face liability for the copyright violation or have to pay the fair market rate for the use, ensuring rights holders are protected.
"It clarifies what the music sector has been saying for years: if you are in the business of distributing music or other creative works, you need a license, clear and simple," said Helen Smith, executive chair of independent music company association IMPALA.
The new law also protects the free speech rights of users by moving away from a system where non-infringing content is often removed mistakenly, and it provides an easy way to reinstate this mistakenly removed content.
Mind The Value Gap
Currently, there is a so-called value gap in Europe wherein internet platforms that host user-generated content have not paid fair market value for music and have been protected against infringement claims. The new directive addresses this gap by requiring all platforms to adhere to the same standards, thus leveling the playing field for competing technology companies and ultimately ensuring creators' works are distributed legally and compensated fairly across the board.
Implementation Of The Law
All 27 EU member countries will now have two years to transpose the directive into national law. For affected platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Vimeo, abiding by the new law will likely involve stricter upload filters, though no guidelines for these filters are specifically outlined in the directive. European Parliament has clarified that users will still be able to upload memes, GIFs, hyperlinks and "individual words or very short extracts" of articles.
While each country's transposition of the directive must fit the framework of the EU's new law, some tech giants feel there may be wiggle room.
Google Europe, who have warned, via twitter, that "The #eucopyrightdirective is improved but will still lead to legal uncertainty and will hurt Europe's creative and digital economies," have also hinted they plan to stay heavily involved in the implementation process, writing, "The details matter, and we look forward to working with policy makers, publishers, creators and rights holders as EU member states move to implement these new rules."
Naturally, there is also some uncertainty as to how the United Kingdom will adopt the new law, considering its current in-flux relationship status with the EU surrounding Brexit.
The gravity and influence of the European Union makes the passage of the directive particularly pivotal for other countries, including the U.S. and the powerhouses of the eastern world.
"It's time for the digital market to catch up with progress. Eyes of the world are on Europe to set a new standard for creators online," Smith explains.
Currently, the value gap in the United States stands as one of the biggest obstacles for the music industry to overcome in its quest for a fair and sustainable system that equally encourages enterprise and creation. Oron hopes, as do many creators worldwide, the decision will "lead the way for countries outside the EU to follow."