Digital age copyright reform stalls as MEPs vote down changes

Despite celebrity endorsement, reform of EU copyright reform voted down giving campaigning internet companies a big win.

Payl McCartney among musicians supporting the EU draft Shutterstock

The European Parliament has narrowly voted to reject draft reforms to the EU’s copyright laws. Campaigners, including Google and Wikipedia, applauded the vote saying the rules would have severely restrict internet freedom. The draft law, known as the Copyright Directive, was intended as a simple update to copyright for the digital age.

Unworkable provisions

The directive would have given news publishers and other media fairer fees from internet giants.  However, substantial criticism targeted the inclusion of two key provisions: Articles 11 and 13. Article 11 creates a ‘link tax’ forcing online platforms like Facebook and Google to pay news organizations before linking to their stories. Article 13, proposed an ‘upload filter’ requiring all content uploaded online to be checked for copyright infringement. Plans to revise the copyright rules for the digital age stirred up a fierce battles over EU tech policy, with lobbying from campaigners, led by internet giants, denouncing the provisions as unworkable. A petition against the reforms called “Save Your Internet” gathered over 700,000 signatures, and Wikipedia ran banners on its French, Spanish and Italian sites urging its users to press MEPs to reject the reforms Campaigners claimed the proposed “upload filter” would have meant an end to sharing memes, which frequently use copyrighted material. The plan would have required internet platforms, notably YouTube owned by Google, to use content filters so that material uploaded by users did not breach copyright rules. Search providers such as Google could also have been asked to pay publishers for showing brief clips of content. The US tech giants would have incurred serious costs to adapt to the ruling.


The update would have been the first since 2001, and a number of notable musicians came out in favor of the legislation, including former Beatles member Paul McCartney and French producer Jean-Michel Jarre. The intended regulations will now have to be redrafted and put to a fresh vote in September. If a compromise can be reached, the parliament would negotiate with EU governments and the European Commission on a final text.

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