EU negotiators have agreed on the final text of the controversial EU copyright reforms.
The agreement was finalised last night (13 February), with significant adjustments to articles 11 and 13.
In the agreed text of article 11, the reproduction of more than single words or very short extracts of a news story would require a licence. This would cover snippets of news that appear alongside links.
No exceptions will be made for this, meaning individuals, small companies and non-profits will be affected.
Pirate party MEP and outspoken critic of the reforms, Julia Reda, said that the final version of article 11 resembles the ‘ancillary copyright’ compromise which was adopted in Germany. Reda claims that almost all experts agree this was an “abject failure”. However, unlike the failed German version, the agreed article 11 is not limited to search engines and news aggregators. Reda claims this will “do damage to a lot more websites”.
Article 13’s finalised text will see content platforms and apps like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter requiring individual licences from rights holders in order for users to post material.
Under the agreed article 13, sites would be found directly liable for copyright infringement if infringing content uploaded by a user is found to be on it.
Sites will have to do their utmost to prevent copyright infringing content from being posted by users. This is often conflated with the ideas of ‘upload filters’, which Reda referred to as expensive and error-prone. Reda called this “an impossible feat”.
In a recent interview with IPPro, German MEP and reform rapporteur, Axel Voss, said that “everything that looks like a filter has been taken away”.
But in this final version of the text, sites may be required to implement upload filters, such as YouTube’s Content ID.
Reda remarked: “Upload filters do not work as algorithms simply cannot tell the difference between copyright infringements and legal parodies.”
Article 13(38) states that this aspect of the directive does not apply to micro and small service providers.
Copyright material used for educational purposes, text and data mining, and in preserving cultural heritage are also all exempt.
The directive introduces a right that sees authors of copyrighted works will be entitled to a share of the press publisher's revenue.
Press publishers from across Europe have welcomed the agreed reforms, and called on the European Parliament to endorse the text “as soon as possible”.
The press publishers added: “Quality journalism is at the heart of our democracies and if we want a future for professional journalism in the EU, we must take action to support the press and to redress an unbalanced ecosystem.”
A Google spokesperson said the company would be studying the final text and that it would “take some time to determine [its] next steps”.
Reda warned that the agreed text is “a threat to small publishers, authors and internet users alike and risks putting the internet as we know it solely in the hands of the tech and media giants”.
She called the text “a backwards step for freedom of expression online” and urged Parliament to reject articles 11 and 13. She added: “We need to send a clear message that we want to protect authors' rights as well as users and small publishers."
Voss commented: “I am glad that the negotiations led to an agreement yesterday. This is an important step for the protection of European Creatives.”
“Platforms will now be liable for copyright infringements on their websites. To protect startups we have a lighter liability regime for them. There is no obligation to filters! Memes and gifs are not affected at all, we agreed on a text that will ensure the freedom of expression remains also in the internet.”
The final vote in plenary could be as soon as between 25 to 28 March.