The UK government won’t adopt the EU’s controversial copyright directive after it leaves the bloc on January 31st, though politicians say they still support the legislation’s “overall aims.”
The copyright directive was criticized by free speech advocates, who said it would stifle expression online through the so-called “upload filter” and “link tax.” The upload filter requires some sites to scan uploaded content to see if it breaches copyright, while the link tax allows newspapers and publishers to charge aggregators that link to their content.
While answering a written parliamentary Q&A, the UK’s Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Chris Skidmore, said the United Kingdom simply doesn’t have time to implement the copyright directive before leaving the European Union.
“[T]he United Kingdom will not be required to implement the Directive, and the Government has no plans to do so,” said Skidmore. “Any future changes to the UK copyright framework will be considered as part of the usual domestic policy process.”
That doesn’t mean the UK won’t implement similar laws later, though. During a recent debate on the music industry, the government’s Minister for Sport, Media & Creative Industries, Nigel Adams, indicated that copyright holders like music labels (who support the directive as it gives them more power over tech giants) could sway policy in future.
“We support the overall aims of the Copyright Directive,” said Adams, reports the Music Producers Guild. ‘It’s absolutely imperative we do everything possible to protect our brilliant creators, as well as the consumers and the rights of users who consume music.”
The copyright directive came into force last year, but EU member states still have until June 2021 to pass relevant laws in their own nations.
After a long and controversial passage through the EU’s legislative bodies, the directive was tweaked in an attempt to reassure critics. Exemptions were added to the upload filter for content uploaded for “quotation, criticism, review, caricature, parody and pastiche” (a response to critics who dubbed the law a “meme ban”), and the filter was also restricted to for-profit organizations, meaning sites like Wikipedia won’t be affected.
Opponents, including big tech companies like Google and Facebook, maintain that the concessions are not enough, and that the directive will ultimately harm internet users as it’s implemented country-by-country in the EU. The UK, though, won’t be one of them.