The European Parliament has passed the EU's new law on copyright as trade bodies hail the first major revamp of copyright rules in 18 years.
MEPs formally adopted the law in a vote in Brussels at the European Parliament this afternoon (26th March) with 348 votes in favour and 274 against. MEPs voted to pass the controversial Article 17 (formerly known as Article 13), which makes platforms legally responsible for all content they host, after opponents failed to win enough votes for last-minute amendments to the legislation.
As a result US technology firms will be forced to jump through extra legal hoops to take greater responsibility for the content they host and the new rules will also offer greater protection against intellectual copyright infringement.
The Federation of European Publishers welcomed the vote. FEP President Rudy Vanschoonbeek said: "I wish to thank all the MEPs who have, with today’s vote, given real support to European creators and taken an important step towards securing a future of diversity and innovation in the creative sectors. This directive, the most hotly contested I have ever seen, will modernise copyright and bring certainty to stakeholders in a number of important areas. We need to work now at national level to prepare the implementation based on cooperation between the various stakeholders."
Society of Authors c.e.o. Nicola Solomon branded the vote "a victory for creators" and called for the law to be fully implemented in the UK. As a member state of the EU, the UK now has two years to put the directive into law.
"This is excellent news for authors and other creators across Europe. The directive will modernise copyright law for the digital age and ensure that creators are properly remunerated when their work is used online. It will also benefit creators by introducing new transparency obligations for publishers and other users, by introducing bestseller clauses and by enabling reversion of rights which are not being exploited," said Solomon. "It has taken us many years to get to this stage, and we have had to compete against a well-funded lobbying effort from US tech giants. The new legislation is a victory for creators and users alike. We now look forward to working closely with government and the wider industry to ensure that the Directive is implemented in full in the UK."
Stephen Lotinga, c.e.o. of the Publishers Association, warned it is unclear if the UK will adapt the legislation. He said: "Today the European Parliament has voted through the Digital Single Market Directive. We welcome this hard fought compromise which on balance delivers for rightsholders in a world increasingly dominated by the large digital platforms.
"The overall aim of the directive – to strike a fair balance for rightsholders online – is one that was badly needed and we should congratulate the European legislature for its efforts in this area. We still don’t have clarity on whether the UK will transpose this legislation. However, if we do end up implementing it domestically, then the policy ramifications of each article need to be carefully considered in a UK context."
Meryl Halls, m.d. at the Booksellers Association, said the new rules strike a balance between common sense usage and protecting rightsholders: “We are happy to see the copyright directive backed by the EU and the commitment to creative rightsholders protected. It seems to us the directive strikes a balance between common sense usage online (for memes and parody use, for instance), and the protection of the rightsholders whose work is the bedrock of all the creative industries. Holding the platforms, rather than the individuals, responsible for content, also seems sensible, but obviously the devil is in the detail, which we look forward to seeing in due course.”
European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip and Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel said writers will "find it easier to negotiate better deals with their publishers" as a result of the reform.
Ansip and Gabriel added: "The new rules will strengthen our creative industries, which represent 11.65 million jobs, 6.8% of GDP and are worth €915,000 million per year. Today's vote ensures the right balance between the interests of all players – users, creators, authors, press – while putting in place proportionate obligations on online platforms."
Speaking ahead of the copyright directive vote at the Bertelsmann financial results announcement this morning, Bertelsmann c.e.o. Thomas Rabe said: "Article 13 is a compromise which took very long to get to... It is a compromise, we would have hoped for a stricter Article 13, but we are realistic... Whatever comes out of the legislative machinery in Brussels is always going to be a compromise, but it is a step in the right direction."
The vote comes after nearly two and a half years of lobbying after the initial proposal to modernise copyright for the digital age was presented to the European Commission in September 2016, amid fears the UK could leave the EU before the directive becomes law.The EU broke the political deadlock in February.
The text adopted by the European Parliament now needs to be formally endorsed by the Council of the EU in the coming weeks. Once published on the Official Journal of the EU, member states will have two years to pass their own laws that put the new EU rules into effect.