EU Copyright Reform Delayed After Meeting Cancellation

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Reprieve for memes? EU efforts to reform copyright rules hit a delay after key meeting is called off

A controversial European Union bill regarding the reform of copyright laws has hit a delay in the face of fierce opposition from tech firms, meme creators, and privacy campaigners.

A key meeting between European lawmakers, representatives from EU countries and Commission officials, was called off late last week after those attending failed to resolve their differences on the matter.

The European Parliament had approved the controversial copyright reforms in September last year, despite heavy lobbying by tech giants, who are opposed to the changes, while the European Commission had argued changes were urgently needed.

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Meeting delay

This MEP approval meant the directive could be negotiated with member states, in order to finalise the revised directive and bring it into force.

But there are two especially controversial aspects to this bill that caused widespread concern.

Article 11 for example requires online platforms such as Google to pay publishers a fee if they link to their news content.

European lawmakers believe this will help support smaller news publishers and drive users to their homepages rather than directly to their news stories.

The second is article 13, which would require online platforms (YouTube, Instagram etc) to install filters to prevent users from uploading copyrighted materials or seek licences to display content.

The bill could therefore severely clamp down on user generated content and signal the end of memes for example.

“Quite disappointed about this delay. I think we should not on the last metres lose sight of the major achievements that are already largely agreed,” Commission digital chief Andrus Ansip was quoted by Reuters as saying.

The European Commission is facing a tight deadline to get the directive approved, as there are European Parliament elections in May.

Tech opposition

The bill has already been fiercely criticised by Internet stalwarts such as Jimmy Wales, World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, internet pioneer Vint Cerf and others.

Tim Berners-Lee for example argued the bill would transform the internet from an open platform into a means of “automated surveillance and control”.

Supporters of the reforms have included, most recently, a group of 165 film-makers and screenwriters, including the UK’s Mike Leigh, and other notable figures in the entertainment industry.

“Google has intensified its scaremongering about the possible impact of a new neighbouring right for press publishers,” the European Publishers Council, European Newspaper Publishers’ Association and the European Magazine Media Association are quoted as saying in a statement.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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