EU backs controversial new copyright law

02 Apr 2019

The EU Parliament has approved a new law that includes a new provision in regards to online use of copyright protected material.

Article 17 of the European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (more commonly known as Article 13 due to the numbering in previous drafts) provides that big tech companies such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Google News or Soundcloud will have to pay for content on their platform that is protected by copyright. Tech companies which host relevant online platforms will have to ensure that copyright protected material is properly licensed, and pay artists and writers for the use of their music or articles in any online content, even though it was uploaded by users of the website and not the tech companies themselves. 

The law does not require tech companies to install software to monitor website content, but it is anticipated that such installations will be inevitable in order to comply with the directive. Websites that run user-generated content will also have to implement a complaints procedure to deal with disputed decisions. 

Even though the directive has to be first implemented by each individual EU member state before it has any effect, Article 17 has already divided opinion significantly. It comes as good news to artists and publishers who will be paid for the use of their copyright protected material and receive a share of the websites’ revenue; unsurprisingly the directive was endorsed by the British music community including high profile musicians such as Sir Paul McCartney and Debbie Harry. 

Critics on the other hand, including world wide web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, perceive the legislative change as an unnecessary restriction to the creative and free use of the internet. 

The new law, which will only affect websites that are more than three years old and which generate an annual turnover of at least €10 million, has also caused an uproar within big tech companies. Google and YouTube, for instance, led a ferocious campaign against the law which nevertheless was approved by the majority of MEPs. 

If you would like to know more on copyright protection, get in touch with Beatrice Bass at or 01273 744240.

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