On March 26, the European Parliament passed amendments to EU law that would require Google and other tech companies to remove any content whose distribution in any way infringes on the copyright of a company or individual. However, these rules will not affect organizations that were founded less than three years ago and earn less than 10 million a year in revenue, plus whose audience does not exceed 5 million users per month.
Moreover, the amendments will come into force on the sole condition that all countries that are members of the European Union must approve them. Nevertheless, if these amendments are adopted, they could dramatically change the market for online media, search engines, and other resources that use someone else’s content.
The amendments themselves have been decided to adopt for the reason that copyright issues in the EU are currently regulated by laws, adopted in 2001 – then the Internet as we know it was just beginning to take shape. There were also no news aggregators like Google News back then. The European officials considered all this to be enough to start modernizing the copyright legislation.
Most problematic is the intention of lawmakers to introduce a rule according to which News aggregators must pay for displaying news snippets with information broadcast from various sources. The modification of the law applies not only to Google News, but also to Facebook and other platforms. The relevant wording is spelled out in Article 11 of the law.
Another problem is Article 17. According to it, the owner of an Internet platform is liable for copyright infringement for posted illegal content from the moment it is uploaded. To combat unlicensed content, it is proposed to introduce specialized filters (Upload Filter).
The beneficiaries of the amendment are the major publishing houses. By the way, they are the ones lobbying to change copyright law, saying that platforms like Google News make money using other people’s labor and publishers’ intellectual property. No money from Google or any other Internet company is received by publishers. Accordingly, publishers plan to use legislation to make online aggregators or social networks pay.
However, not all right holders agree with this position. For example, small companies believe that Internet corporations and their services, such as those mentioned above, help get an audience that is much larger than what small online media without news aggregators would get.
What is the Upload Filter
This is the name they decided to give to specialized software that checks the legality of the use of such content when it is downloaded to users. In fact, movies check for possible copyright violations. If there is an infringement, the filters are designed to eliminate it. Thus, filters can prevent the situation with the downloading of unlicensed content, as well as its appearance on major online platforms.
True, the filter implementation program has many detractors. They point out that the filter is not a person, the program cannot recognize common quotes, memes, and parodies, considering all this a copyright violation. Plus, only large companies will be able to install filters; small organizations can’t afford it.
Opponents of the copyright amendments also believe that the filters are the latest move by the EU government to prepare for the introduction of censorship. Representatives of the European Court of Justice spoke out about this danger back in 2012.
What other consequences could there be
The problem is that relatively small online media could lose a significant share of users if the amendments are passed. For example, in Germany they tried to make Google pay for news a few years ago. True, after the service left the country, its authors abruptly changed their minds, heeding the complaints of the German media, which lost a very significant audience.
The amendments state that online resources that use someone else’s content (music, lyrics, etc.) must ensure that a "fair price" is formed for the content provider. But it doesn’t say what a "fair price" is or how this bill would be enforced.
Anyway there is no final decision on the modernization of copyright law in the EU yet. As stated above, the amendments must be approved by all countries that are members of the EU. If everything goes smoothly and all states agree, it will take about two years to implement the new rules.