Copyright? It’s complicated...

By Jane Whyatt

Strong views and heated debate greeted the new EU Copyright Directive. Journalists, publishers, musicians and film-makers are celebrating. But internet libertarians and Big Tech  giants on the other hand denounce the new measure, and especially Clause 13, as a so-called “censorship machine“.


Copyright decision EU parliament On September 12th, 2018 the EU parliament decided on a new copyright directive (photo: EP)

The vote was decisive: 438 for, 226 against and 39 abstentions at the plenary session in Strasbourg, France.

On the morning of the vote, French daily Le Soir took a stand in favour of copyright. Its front page contained a large blank space, with the message ’Information has a price’ ( L’info, ça coût).

Mogens Blicher Bjerregård, President of the European Federation of Journalists the Founder Member of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom had campaigned for many months on the issue. The EFJ strongly urged the European Parliament to adopt clauses that safeguard authors‘ rights to get paid for producing professional quality journalism, reportage, investigations, albums, photographs and movies that are shared online. Bjerregård said the new Directive will also safeguard the future jobs and freelance earnings of media workers and publishing houses.

Challenged about criticism of the Directive from some freedom of expression campaigners, the EFJ President replied that it had been misunderstood by some organisations. “I cannot see how it will restrict freedom of expression. The Copyright Directive ensures that you can get paid for your work. If anyone wants to give away their work for free, they can.“

International Federation of Journalists General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “We celebrate the European Parliament’s approval of the DSM Directive. It’s a great step forward in the defence of journalists’ and author’s rights, which have been violated for years by tech giants. We will keep on campaigning for the European Council to agree with all the terms of this Directive”.

Concern about freedom

The UK-based Open Rights Group had earlier lobbied MEPs to delete Article 13 from the Directive, saying it was a form of  ’automated censorship’. This article requires internet platforms such as YouTube and Facebook to install recognition software which the campaigners have dubbed ’Robocop’ and ’upload filters’.

An open letter from 169 European academics including ECPMF founder member Professor Dirk Voorhoof had also expressed concern about the likely effect of the new legislation.

Articles 11 and 13  of the Copyright Directive had attracted widespread criticism from digital freedom campaigns. They found a political champion at Strasbourg in the Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda. Individuals who have publicly opposed the Directive include the creator of the World Wide Web  Tim Berners-Lee, and Internet founding father Vint Cerf, who raised concerns regarding the costs and effectiveness of upload filters and the potential negative effects on free speech online.

Fears about the costs involved in implementing Article 13 may be what drove Google to lobby hard in Brussels and Strasbourg against this new legal instrument. It is estimated that Google spent at least $36 million on their campaign.

Creative Commons LicenseThis article is licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.
Source information: This article was originally published by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom –