Copyright reform backed by EU governments

The majority of EU governments on Wednesday officially approved a draft reform of copyright laws despite heavy opposition from tech firms, meme creators, and privacy campaigners.

However, according to a Reuters report, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, and Poland refused to support the deal – and two other EU countries abstained.

Approval of the bill was delayed last month after talks to discuss the proposal was cancelled after those attending failed to resolve their differences.

Copyright reform

The European parliament initially approved the controversial bill last September, despite criticism from tech opposition, both inside and outside the EU.

EU commissioners, Andrus Ansip and Mariya Gabriel, who proposed the reform, argued that amendments to the law were “an essential step to achieving our common objective of modernising the copyright rules in the European Union”.

There are two contentious aspects to this bill that have caused widespread concerns.

Article 11, for instance, is controversial because it forces online platforms such as Google to pay publishers a fee for the use of their online content.

EU lawmakers believe this will help smaller news publisher drive traffic directly to their homepage rather than their news stories, which could force Google to remove Google News from Europe altogether.

The second concern is Article 13, which would require online platforms like YouTube and Instagram to install upload filters to prevent users from uploading copyrighted materials.

Opposition

Critics say the reform could clamp down on user-generated content, memes, and parodies.

The dissenting countries said that these proposed changes could hinder innovation and hurt their competitiveness in the digital market.

“We regret that the Directive does not strike the right balance between the protection of rights holders and the interests of EU citizens and companies,” the dissenting countries was quoted by Reuters as saying in a joint statement.

The next step for the legislation is a vote by a committee of lawmakers, next week, followed by a parliamentary vote in March or early April.

In June last year, several internet pioneers signed a letter addressed to the President of the European Parliament urging him to oppose Article 13. Among the authors of the letter was internet creator, Tim Berners-Lee, and Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales.

They warned that “Article 13 takes an unprecedented step towards the transformation of the internet, from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users.”

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