Agreement reached on digital copyright rules

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(Unsplash, 2019)

This article is brought to you in association with the European Parliament.


Creatives and news publishers will be empowered to negotiate with internet giants thanks to a deal reached on copyright rules which also contains safeguards on freedom of expression.

The deal, reached between EP and Council negotiators aims to ensure that the rights and obligations of copyright law also apply to the internet. YouTube, Facebook and Google News are some of the internet household names, which will be most directly affected by this legislation.

Legislators also strove to ensure that the internet remains a space for freedom of expression. Snippets from news articles can thus continue to be shared, as can Gifs and memes.

Tech giants to share revenue with artists and journalists

The deal aims at enhancing rights holders’ chances, notably musicians, performers and script authors, as well as news publishers, to negotiate better remuneration deals for the use of their works featured on internet platforms.

Locking in freedom of expression

Sharing snippets of news articles will not engage the rights of the media house which produced the shared article. The deal however also contains provisions to avoid news aggregators abusing this allowance. The ‘snippet’ can therefore continue to appear in a Google News newsfeeds, for example, or when an article is shared on Facebook, provided it is “very short”.

Uploading protected works for purposes of quotation, criticism, review, caricature, parody or pastiche has been protected, ensuring that memes and Gifs will continue to be available and shareable on online platforms.

Many online platforms will not be affected

The text also specifies that uploading works to online encyclopaedias in a non-commercial way, such as Wikipedia, or open source software platforms, such as GitHub, will automatically be excluded. Start-up platforms will be subject to lighter obligations than more established ones.

Stronger negotiating rights for authors and performers

Authors and performers will be able to claim additional remuneration from the distributor exploiting their rights when the remuneration originally agreed is disproportionately low compared to the benefits derived by the distributer.

How this directive changes the status quo

Currently, internet companies have little incentive to sign fair licensing agreements with rights holders, because they are not considered liable for the content that their users upload. They are only obliged to remove infringing content when a rights holder asks them to do so. However, this is cumbersome for rights holders and does not guarantee them a fair revenue. Making internet companies liable will enhance rights holders’ chances (notably musicians, performers and script authors, as well as news publishers and journalists) to secure fair licensing agreements, thereby obtaining fairer remuneration for the use of their works exploited digitally.

Next steps

The deal must now be approved by Council representatives and the EP plenary.

Quote from the rapporteur, Axel Voss (EPP, DE)

“This deal 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.
At the same time, this deal contains numerous provisions which will guarantee that the internet remains a space for free expression. These provisions were not in themselves necessary because the directive will not be creating any new rights for rights holders. Yet we listened to the concerns raised and chose to doubly guarantee the freedom of expression. The ‘meme’, the ‘gif’, the ‘snippet’ are now more protected than ever before.

I am also glad that the text agreed today pays particular attention to sheltering start-ups. Tomorrow’s leading companies are the start-ups of today and diversity depends on a deep pool of innovative, dynamic, young companies.

This is a deal 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.”

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