UK ‘Will Not Implement EU Copyright Directive’

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Controversial provisions that Google argued would ban memes and GIFs will not be brought into UK law, as country departs from European Union

The government has indicated it does not plan to implement the EU Copyright Directive, with its contentious provisions that aim to tighten copyright controls for the digital age.

The UK was one of the 19 EU member states that voted in favour of the directive in its final European Council vote in April 2019.

However, prime minister Boris Johnson criticised the law ahead of that vote, saying it was “terrible for the internet”.  Johnson was a backbench MP at the time.

Large internet companies such as Google lobbied fiercely against the law, while it was supported by content creators, including news publishers.

A data centre, storageMeme protection

The directive’s controversial Article 13 (renamed Article 17) makes online platforms responsible for removing copyrighted materials, something critics argued would effectively ban memes and GIFs.

Google argued the provision would “harm Europe’s creative and digital industries”.

In 2019, however, lawmakers modified the directive to specifically protect memes and GIFs, allowing materials used “for purposes of quotation, criticism, review, caricature, parody and pastiche”.

Memes and GIFs often rely on copyrighted imagery from films and television.

The law affects platforms that provide the public with access to “protected works or other protected subject-matter uploaded by its users”, including Soundcloud, Dailymotion and YouTube.

News snippets

The directive’s Article 11, meanwhile, requires news aggregators to pay for quotes that are longer than very short excerpts, something Google has long resisted doing.

EU member states have until 7 June 2021 to implement the reforms, but the UK is set to leave the union at the end of this month.

Universities and science minister Chris Skidmore confirmed that the government is not planning to bring the copyright provisions into UK law, the BBC reported.

The move gives the UK more flexibility in negotiating trade deals with other countries.

However, the directive’s provisions still apply in the European Union’s other 27 member states.

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