After a brief rebellion, the EU link tax and upload filter will move to a final vote

 theverge.com  2/13/2019 9:19:26 PM   James Vincent
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Last-minute negotiations over the wording of the European Union’s controversial Copyright Directive have come to a close, and only a full vote by the European Parliament stands in the way of the legislation becoming law.

The final text of the directive has been wrangled over during closed-door negotiations for the last few months. It had been hoped by campaigners that these talks, known as trilogues, would mitigate or even remove what they see as the worst effects of two of the directive’s sub-clauses: Articles 11 and 13, better known as the “link tax” and “upload filter.”

A rebellion by a handful of member states offered some hope in January, but a last-minute deal between France and Germany has now resolved the dispute.

The final text of the Copyright Directive has yet to be shared, but Pirate MEP Julia Reda, a prominent opponent of the law, offered a summary on her blog. Much of what has already been criticized remains the same. Under Article 13 of the final text, says Reda, for-profit platforms like YouTube, Tumblr, and Twitter will be forced to proactively scan user-uploaded content for material that infringes copyright. Article 11, meanwhile, gives publishers the right to charge search engines, aggregators, and other sites if they reproduce more than “single words or very short extracts” of new stories.

Big tech companies, academics, and even rights-holders (many of whom initially supported the Copyright Directive) have come out against these two articles. Although much of the legislation offers a sensible overhaul of outdated copyright law for the internet age, the imprecise wording and vague ambitions of Articles 11 and 13 have infuriated many.

A number of organizations representing European music, sports, and broadcasting industries say the current approach will have “serious harm” and risks, leaving “European producers, distributors and creators worse off.”

Sebastian Schwemer, a researcher at the Centre for Information and Innovation Law in Denmark, told The Verge that the deal was part of a larger trend to try and filter the internet using so-called “proactive measures.” He said: “But a broader debate in society, whether the use of such proactive measures is even desirable, is missing.”

There is still one last chance for those fighting against the Copyright Directive. Now that trilogue negotiations are over, the text will be put before the European Parliament for a final vote by all 751 MEPs sometime in March or April. Given that EU elections take place in May, activists are hoping that the threat of being booted out of office will be strong enough to persuade MEPs to vote against the directive or at least vote for some changes.

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