How does Article 13 affect the United States?

Background current

The EU Parliament has approved the controversial reform of copyright law. Creatives and publishers see this as an opportunity for fair remuneration, while critics warn in particular of the consequences of possible upload filters.

With the new regulation, platforms such as YouTube are to be made more responsible: Protected works would therefore have to be licensed before they land on the platforms - or should not be uploaded. (& copy picture-alliance / dpa)

On Tuesday, the members of the EU Parliament adopted the “Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market” with 348 votes in favor, 274 against and 36 abstentions. A request to vote separately on individual articles of the reform failed with just five votes. This ends the legislative process that began in 2016.

The directive still has to be adopted by the competent ministers of the member states in the Council of the EU, although this is a matter of form. The EU member states then have two years to implement the provisions in national legislation.

Reform of copyright law has been discussed in the European Union for years. The aim is to adapt copyright law to the requirements of the digital age and to regulate the use of protected works such as texts, images, videos and music on the Internet more clearly. The current EU copyright law dates back to 2001 - a time when Facebook, Twitter and YouTube did not yet exist.

In mid-February of this year, representatives of the EU institutions Council, Commission and Parliament reached a compromise in a trialogue process. They see the reform as an opportunity for journalists and cultural workers to receive fair remuneration for their work. But there were demonstrations against parts of the draft in many European countries: The critics consider the EU's plans - especially the feared consequences of so-called upload filters - to be a danger to the free Internet. Newspaper and magazine publishers as well as music and film companies see an urgent need for action, as the content they produce is used on platforms such as Google or Facebook without the authors or producers being remunerated.

Two key changes have been criticized

There was resistance in particular to Articles 11 and 13 of the planned copyright reform. Article 11, in the currently adopted version of the Directive Article 15, regulates the ancillary copyright for press publishers. According to him, newspaper and magazine publishers as well as authors should receive more money in future for the use of their content by third parties. According to the version that has now been adopted, search engines such as Google are no longer allowed to easily display small article excerpts, so-called snippets, in their search results or on Google News. In future, you will first have to obtain the consent of the publishers and, if necessary, pay for it.

Above all, Google mobilized against these plans. Many publishers, however, welcome the regulation. The Association of German Newspaper Publishers and the Association of German Magazine Publishers describe the reform as a "great opportunity for independent journalism in the digital era". Critics like the pirate European politician Julia Reda also see disadvantages, especially for small publishers: They are dependent on being listed by Google, Yahoo and Co., as these are central distribution channels for their content. In addition, the similarly regulated national ancillary copyright law, which has been in force in Germany since 2013, has not led to any significant additional income for the publishers.

Article 13 is particularly controversial, in the currently adopted version Article 17. According to this, platforms on which users can upload videos or audio files are to be made more responsible in the fight against copyright infringements in the future. Protected works would then have to be licensed before they can be accessed on the platforms - or they may not be uploaded. The operators would be liable if users nevertheless upload copyrighted works; up to now, they only had to remove such content upon notification. Such a comprehensive and real-time control can only be implemented with so-called upload filters.

Critics fear censorship through upload filters

"Even if upload filters are not explicitly required in the draft law, they will come down to them in practice," warns the Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, Ulrich Kelber. In his opinion, the reform can lead to "considerable problems in terms of data protection law". When using upload filters, there is a risk that a few large IT providers of such filter software will increasingly receive data about users of many platforms and services on the Internet. Smaller providers could not afford the programming effort to develop their own filters.

Many forums, blogs and discussion platforms have also announced that they would rather do without upload options than use non-transparent filter techniques and software. In addition, many operators criticize that users would be placed under general suspicion and since upload filters would also filter legal content such as parodies or quotes in case of doubt, this would amount to censorship and restriction of freedom of expression on the Internet.

Exceptions only apply to a few companies

Only companies that are younger than three years, achieve an annual turnover of a maximum of ten million euros and also have fewer than five million users per month are to be excluded from the new rules. De facto, the majority of providers - not just the large US corporations - would be affected by the amendment. In the negotiations with the EU states, the parliament actually demanded that companies with an annual turnover of up to 20 million euros be excluded.

Approval of the Federal Government - Europe-wide protests

Above all the parties Die Linke, parts of the SPD and Greens as well as the Pirate Party had expressed their criticism of the plans in advance. The agreement carries the risk of "placing the Internet as we know it exclusively in the hands of the technology and media giants," said the European pirate politician Julia Reda. Some Union politicians had also spoken out against upload filters, such as the German Digital Minister of State Dorothee Bär (CSU). In the coalition agreement of the black-red federal government, the obligation to filter is rejected as "disproportionate". Nevertheless, the German government approved the draft in the EU Council of Ministers in February. After the vote on March 26, CDU General Secretary Paul Ziemiak announced that the reform in Germany would be implemented without the controversial upload filter. In many German cities there had been demonstrations against the reform right up to the end. Protests were also made in other EU member states: the online petition "Save the Internet", which is directed against Article 13 (17), was signed by almost five million people across Europe.

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