Controversial EU Copyright Reform Clears Final Hurdle

EU member states adopted wide-ranging copyright reforms on Monday, marking the end to fractious campaigning around the issue that pitted big tech firms against copyright holders and publishers.

Some 19 countries backed the reforms in a European Council vote, including France, Germany and the UK, with Belgium and Slovenia abstaining and six countries, including Italy and the Netherlands, voting against.

The rules, which countries have two years to implement in local law, are intended to curb the privileges of online firms, including search engines such as Google and content-sharing platforms such as YouTube and Instagram, which are seen as benefiting from copyrighted content at publishers’ expense.

The Council said the rules would “ensure adequate protection for authors and artists”.

‘Fit for the digital age’

“With today’s agreement, we are making copyright rules fit for the digital age,” said European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in a statement following the vote.

The vote follows the initiative’s adoption by the European Parliament last month, following a two-year process that saw intense lobbying by both copyright holders and tech companies.

The overhaul holds online platforms liable for copyright breaches, meaning they will be required to obtain licences from rights holders to distribute copyrighted content.

Critics have said the rules are likely to benefit large platforms that have the resources to employ expensive content filters.

The initiative’s Article 11 also allows publishers to charge platforms that feature more than short excerpts of articles.

Following a successful vote last year in the European Parliament, MEP Axel Voss, who has spearheaded the reforms through the European Parliament, said the outcome was “a good sign for the creative industries in Europe”, while Julia Reda of the Pirate Party, which opposed the changes, said the vote was “catastrophic”.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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