- The European Parliament has passed controversial new laws on internet copyright.
- The new European Union Copyright Directive passed Tuesday in a 348-274 vote.
- The laws are intended to ensure fair copyright on the internet but have been sharply criticized as being overreaching.
- Google, the YouTuber KSI, and the Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales were among those who bemoaned the legislation’s passing.
The European Parliament on Tuesday passed legislation massively tightening copyright laws on the internet – a move that has been vocally opposed by tech companies, academics, and consumers.
The original draft of the new laws was sent back to the drawing board in July for being too sweeping. A softened version was then drawn up in September. On Tuesday, the directive passed in a 348-274 vote.
Two articles in particular are particularly contentious. Article 11 is sometimes called the “link tax,” and it will require companies such as Google to hold licenses for linking to publishers.
Article 13, meanwhile, requires internet companies such as Reddit to police their platforms for copyright infringements and filter out any offending content. When first proposed, it sparked fears that it could essentially kill off memes. In a press release following the vote, however, the European Parliament said memes would be excluded from the remit of the new laws, along with GIFs.
Before the main vote, European lawmakers voted by a majority of five votes to reject the ability to amend these controversial elements of the directive.
Axel Voss, the European lawmaker who spearheaded the copyright changes, said in a statement:
“This directive is an important step towards correcting a situation which has allowed a few companies to earn huge sums of money without properly remunerating the thousands of creatives and journalists whose work they depend on.
“This is a directive which protects people’s living, safeguards democracy by defending a diverse media landscape, entrenches freedom of expression, and encourages start-ups and technological development. It helps make the internet ready for the future, a space which benefits everyone, not only a powerful few.”
Andrus Ansip, the European Commission’s vice president for the digital single market, also welcomed the new laws.
This #copyright vote is a big step ahead. It cuts fragmentation; a key step to completing the #DigitalSingleMarket. For the first time Europe has clear common rules on cultural heritage & text and data mining, essential for future of #AI#CopyrightDirective pic.twitter.com/ysIMXk6jaF
— Andrus Ansip (@Ansip_EU) March 26, 2019
Julia Reda, a member of European Parliament who has campaigned against the laws, said it was a “dark day for internet freedom.”
Dark day for internet freedom: The @Europarl_EN has rubber-stamped copyright reform including #Article13 and #Article11. MEPs refused to even consider amendments. The results of the final vote: 348 in favor, 274 against #SaveYourInternet pic.twitter.com/8bHaPEEUk3
— Julia Reda (@Senficon) March 26, 2019
Google also tweeted its dismay, saying the new laws would cause “legal uncertainty.”
The #eucopyrightdirective is improved but will still lead to legal uncertainty and will hurt Europe’s creative and digital economies (1/2)
— Google Europe (@googleeurope) March 26, 2019
The Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said internet users “lost a huge battle today,” while the YouTuber KSI tweeted: “Article 13 has just passed…RIP.”
Reddit, Wikipedia, and PornHub were among those who protested the laws last week, asking users to lobby their representatives in the European Parliament to vote against the measures.
Tens of thousands of protesters also took to the streets in Germany and other European countries, including Sweden, Poland, Switzerland, Austria, and Portugal, to campaign against the changes.
Opponents fear the new laws will chill online speech. On Sunday, a group of 200 European academics wrote a joint statement condemning the proposal.