Copyright Directive Articles 11 and 13

My update on Copyright Directive in European Parliament

Many constituents have written to me on two specific articles of this proposed legislation, currently being worked on in the European Parliament. As the votes approach, here is a further update.

Article 13 – Overview

The aim of Article 13 is to provide legal clarity as to where the liability lies for copyrighted content uploaded onto online content sharing platforms, such as YouTube. As things stand, there is a large and unfair imbalance between the obligations of online content sharing platforms on the one hand, and rights holders on the other. In many cases, platforms like YouTube make considerable profits at the expense of artists who are not fairly remunerated for their own work when that work is placed online. The agreed EPLP position is that platforms such as YouTube should be responsible for ensuring that any copyrighted content used on their platform is properly licensed or taken down, in order to rectify that unfair imbalance.

Article 13 – Content blocking and YouTube’s ‘mass channel closures’.

Article 13 does not necessitate nor require the implementation of automated content blocking, only that online content sharing platforms either license or remove copyrighted material from their platforms. In fact, under the text adopted by Parliament in September (following Amendments 156 to 161), Article 13.3 clarifies that automated blocking of content should be avoided. These amendments removed from the original text reference to ‘content recognition technologies’, thus removing the risk of algorithmic channel closures. Furthermore, Article 1.2b also requires content sharing platforms to create effective redress and complaints mechanisms for users whose content is incorrectly removed. Such mechanisms would require a human review meaning that any works removed which did not infringe copyright would be properly analysed and re-uploaded.

YouTube’s suggestion that Article 13 will result in mass European channel closures is therefore very (and perhaps deliberately) misleading. Again, the text only requires content sharing platforms like YouTube to either license or remove copyrighted material.

On Article 11 – The ‘link tax’

The ‘Press Publishers Right’ found Article 11 of the current proposal would be an important step to protect our free and professional press, as it will ensure that they would receive proper remuneration for the online commercial exploitation of their content. The proposals would give press publishers the same rights as individual journalists and photographers to license their content. Whilst examining this proposal, Labour MEPs have paid particular attention to ensure that no liability is attributed to individual users, but rather the service providers, such as social media platforms or news aggregators, who use content without a licence. This means that users sharing links to news publications on social media are not affected.

There have been concerns around a “link tax” being created in this article. However, Article 11 does not generate a “link tax”. The use or sharing of hyperlinks is explicitly excluded from the scope of the report in part 2a of Article 11: “The rights referred to in paragraph 1 shall not extend to acts of hyperlinking”.

Labour MEPs are also particularly conscious that whilst this right improves the position of press publishers, individual authors such as journalists should also benefit from the proposals and have therefore backed modifications to ensure that this is the case. It is essential to ensure a fair balance.

More background on this issue, posted on this site last summer, can be found here.