The EU has backed tough new laws to enforce copyright online

  • The European Parliament has backed legislation that would support much tougher laws on copyright online.
  • The laws are an updated version of proposals rejected in July, which were widely criticised for being too sweeping.
  • Amendments to make the so-called “link tax” less comprehensive and to exempt smaller platforms from having to filter content have been included.
  • Despite the amendments, some still view the laws as hindering freedom of expression online.

The European Parliament has backed legislation to get tough with online copyright infringement.

The original version of the new laws was rejected in July after widespread criticism. Most contentious were article 13, which would force platforms such as Reddit and Facebook to identify and censor uploaded content that breaches copyright, and article 11 or the so-called “link tax,” which would require companies like Google to hold licences for linking to publishers. Article 13 in particular was seen as a threat to the existence of memes.

On Wednesday, however, an amended version of the reforms was voted through 438 votes to 226, with 39 abstentions.

“Tech giants must pay for work of artists and journalists which they use,” the European Parliament announced in a statement which outlined its new position.

The “link tax” portion of the legislation has been amended so that just sharing hyperlinks to articles along with an “individual word” to describe them will not be penalised. It would also give journalists the right to receive some of the remuneration earned by their publisher for the articles being used by news aggregators.

The softened version should also appease fears that the reforms could penalise smaller platforms that can’t afford to police copyright.

“In an attempt to encourage start-ups and innovation, the text now exempts small and micro platforms from the directive,” the European Parliament announced. It also made clear that online encyclopedias such as Wikipedia and GitHub would be exempt.

After the vote German MEP Axel Voss, who was responsible for putting the legislation together, expressed his jubilance at the vote passing. “I am very glad that despite the very strong lobbying campaign by the internet giants, there is now a majority in the full house backing the need to protect the principle of fair pay for European creatives,” he said in a statement.

However, some still remain opposed to the laws, including MEP Julia Reda, who called the EU endorsement “a severe blow to the free and open internet.”

Jimmy Wales did not immediately voice any concrete opinion on the legislation, but instead said in a tweet that he was taking time to reflect on it.

The legislation still faces a final vote in early 2019, and individual member states will then have to implement their version of it.

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