The European Parliament has voted overwhelmingly in favour of tough new online copyright rules that critics say will mandate de facto upload filters on all but the smallest websites.
In particular, MEPs waived through Article 11 of the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, enabling publishers to demand licences for links, while Article 13 will require platform providers to "take appropriate and proportionate measures" to prevent copyrights from being infringed.
Despite widespread opposition from critics who said that the measures were overkill, MEPs voted 438 in favour and 226 against, with the mainstream blocs - the European People's Party and Social Democrats - largely voting in favour of the measure.
The copyright directive is a victory for all citizens. Today the European Parliament has chosen to defend European and Italian culture and creativity, putting an end to the digital wild west. pic.twitter.com/KzUpZFv9FN— Antonio Tajani (@EP_President) September 12, 2018
The aim is to protect the work of authors and ensure that their copyrights are respected. #EU citizens are not at risk, as well as their memes. Rest assured that you will use the internet in the future like you used to before. https://t.co/t2xYv5Tmcl— Marijana Petir (@marijana_petir) September 12, 2018
The votes in favour of Articles 11 and 13 were slimmer, with the Article 11 going through 393 to 279, and Article 13 being voted through be MEPs by 366 votes to 297.
The Directive will still need the final approval of the European Parliament in January next year, and the leaders of EU member states will need to approve the Directive before individual EU member countries will be compelled to draft national laws to put the Directive into effect.
Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament, claimed that the vote was "a victory for all citizens", claiming that it would put "an end to the digital wild west".
Marijana Petir, an MEP representing the Croatian Peasant Party, affiliated to the mainstream Conservative EPP, also voted in favour claiming that it would "ensure better protection and fair compensation for journalists, publishers, artists and performers… while maintaining free internet usage for all EU citizens".
Article 13 vote: The European Parliament endorses #uploadfilters for all but the smallest sites and apps. Anything you want to publish will need to first be approved by these filters, perfectly legal content like parodies & memes will be caught in the crosshairs #SaveYourInternet pic.twitter.com/bTEtXRS3qx— Julia Reda (@Senficon) September 12, 2018
Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, claimed that the Directive would prevent people from sharing a wide range of non-copyright-violating material, as platform providers would be encouraged to be cautious about what they allow users to upload.
"Article 13 creates a Robo-copyright regime that would zap any image, text, meme or video that appears to include copyright material whether it is legally used or not. This is disappointing and will open the door to more demands for Robocop censorship," said Killock.
Here's how the European political groups voted on #uploadfilters today (#Article13, Voss' proposal). Total: 366 in favour, 297 against #SaveYourInternet / Data: https://t.co/UJGxN4STNi pic.twitter.com/TpnlYlHSnl— Julia Reda (@Senficon) September 12, 2018
Parliament voted for the #LinkTax 393:279 and for #UploadFilters 366:297. The first vote in July was similarly close, so things can still change until the final vote in spring, if we keep up the pressure! #SaveYourInternet— Julia Reda (@Senficon) September 12, 2018
He continued: "The Directive is not yet law and could improve during trialogue negotiations. We will keep opposing these measures which will lead to legal material being removed in this way."
Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda claimed that the Copyright Directive would be "a severe blow to the free and open internet" and would even extend to hosting providers, who would have to monitor all uploads in real-time in order to avoid falling foul of the Directive.
The measures in the Copyright Directive go hand-in-hand with anti-terrorism measures that are also being considered by the European Union. This will mandate platform providers to take down material that governments consider extremist or promoting terrorism to be taken down within an hour.
Platform providers that fail to follow instructions to take down material quickly enough could be subject to GDPR-style fines of up to four per cent of revenues. Any site with a comment section reachable in the EU would come under the auspices of the proposed legislation, according to Reda, with the requirement to take down content on demand, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
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