4 min read

The European Commission’s proposal to revise the Copyright Directive also called as “copyright reform”, saw some success when last week majority of the EU member states agreed to have further negotiations to reach an agreement on the finalized version. The plenary sessions are scheduled to start from 11th Feb. After all these negotiations, the law is most likely to be passed in March or April this year.

Last month, the negotiations were stopped because some of the countries were not able to agree on whether small companies should also be subject to these rules. Andrus Ansip, EU digital chief believes that this week’s talk could reach to a decision. He tweeted:

What is this copyright reform about?

Back in 2016, the European Commission proposed a legislative to revamp the EU copyright rules based on the current internet scenario. This legislative package by EC included a new directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. Under this directive, there are two articles which have seen great criticism from European and American parties for introducing compulsory “copyright filters”: Article 11 and Article 13.

Article 11, also known as the “link tax”, allows article and news publishers to license their work and be paid for the online distribution of their work by news aggregators. This article, according to EC, aims to protect press publications and reduce the value gap between the profits made by the internet platforms and the actual content creators. Article 13 requires content sharing platforms such as YouTube to take appropriate measures for checking the content uploaded on their platforms to prevent any unauthorized publishing of copyrighted content.

How the public is reacting to copyright reform?

Majority of the public think that imposing copyright filters and licenses will simply not work in helping the content creators, and rather result in a major loss for them. In the past, we have seen several examples backing this statement. When Belgium news publishers demanded money from Google, it unreferenced their content. The newspaper has to give up because they ended up losing a lot of traffic.

One of the Hacker News users, explaining the consequences of this copyright reform, said, “Search engines could just wipe any publisher that insists on being paid from the results. When publishers realize people no longer find their physical newspaper subscription site, I think they would soon reconsider supporting this legislation.”

In November last year, The Guardian reported that Google may shut down Google News in Europe if the “link tax” is implemented. The vice president of Google News, Richard Gingras said that when in 2014 the Spanish government tried to charge a link tax on Google, the company responded by shutting down Google News in the country. It also removed Spanish newspapers from the service internationally.

Going by the current description of Article 11, it will limit news aggregators from showing snippets of articles, which means before clicking on the news readers will only see URLs, very short fragments of headlines, but no preview images. Google checked whether this will have any impact on the traffic and found out that this could surely result in a “substantial traffic loss to news publishers.”

Sharing the result of the experiment, Kent Walker, Google‘s SVP of Global Affairs, said, “Even a moderate version of the experiment (where we showed the publication title, URL, and video thumbnails) led to a 45 percent reduction in traffic to news publishers. Our experiment demonstrated that many users turned instead to non-news sites, social media platforms, and online video sites — another unintended consequence of legislation that aims to support high-quality journalism.”

The critics of Article 13 think that employing different measures to check the upload of copyrighted content will create an extra burden for small platforms and could eventually lead to creating “censorship machines”. This essentially means that these platforms will be held accountable in case of any copyright infringement in the content shared by its users.

Read the full story at The Reuters.

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