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Article 13 and Article 11 of the Copyright Directive have been approved by officials in Brussels in an attempt to change online copyright law 


MEPs have approved a number of changes to the EU Copyright Directive — the first major overhaul to European copyright law since 2001.

Although most of the changes present a welcome update to ageing legislation, Article 11 and Article 13 in the document have provoked outrage in some corners of the internet.

A letter penned by 70 leading internet figures including Sir Tim Berners-Lee, said the risks outweigh the benefits when it comes to the new EU law.

‘We support the consideration of measures that would improve the ability for creators to receive fair remuneration for the use of their works online,’ the open letter reads. 

‘But we cannot support Article 13, which would mandate Internet platforms to embed an automated infrastructure for monitoring and censorship deep into their networks.’

Article 13 and Article 11 of the Copyright Directive have been approved by officials in Brussels in an attempt to change online copyright law 

Article 13 and Article 11 of the Copyright Directive have been approved by officials in Brussels in an attempt to change online copyright law 

What is in Article 13?

Article 13 in the revised EU Copyright Directive could affect memes and music remixes shared online.

This portion of the legislation puts the onus of policing for copyright infringement on the websites themselves.

Until now, online companies have not been subject to copyright penalties when a user on their platform uploaded something that infringes copyright. 

However, that will change with Article 13.

As a result, Facebook could be held responsible when one of its 2.19 billion monthly active users shares a copyrighted image without the correct permission from the rightsholders.

But while Facebook has the funds to build a system to automatically scan content before it is shared to check for infringement, many smaller sites do not.

Memes often use still images from popular television shows or films, which are protected by copyright and would be flagged by these systems.

Cory Doctorow, special Advisor for online watchdog Electronic Freedom Foundation, says Article 13 will trigger ‘problems so big that they threaten to wreck the Internet itself.’

It’s unclear exactly what precautions websites will have to provide to protect against copyright infringement from its users.

Article 13 is quite vague, suggesting that sites use ‘appropriate’ measures, and employ ‘effective content recognition technologies’ to check content.

According to critics, the most important problem with Article 13 is the fact that it makes no exceptions for fair use – which previously allowed people to remix and mash-up copyrighted songs, or use short video clips from movies in commentary or parody.

What is in Article 11?

Article 11 in the Copyright Directive has been nicknamed the ‘snippet tax’. 

It aims to limit the power that technology giants like Google and Facebook hold over publishers, whose work is protected under copyright law. 

Online platforms will have to pay for a license to link to news publishers when quoting portions of text from these outlets.

This will support publishers and drive some traffic away to the publishers.

But while Silicon Valley companies like Google and Facebook will undoubtedly be able to afford a licence, smaller firms may not.

The changes could outlaw small news aggregators, which pull-in articles from a variety of sources online.

Axel Voss, Rapporteur of the European Parliament for the Copyright Directive, who spearheaded the changes, defended Article 11, saying: ‘If the press is dependent on search engines, of powerful companies, then we simply don’t have an independent press any longer.’

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