European Parliament Passes Controversial Internet Copyright Laws

The laws are intended to ensure fair internet copyright but have been criticized as being overreaching.

Copyright Directive Voted Through
  • On Tuesday, the European Parliament passed the new EU Copyright Directive which will make tech companies liable for copyright-infringing content hosted on their platforms.
  • The directive has drawn a variety of sharp critics, from tech giants like Google and Reddit to political activists like Tommy Robinson and YouTuber Michael Meecham (a.k.a “Count Dankula”) who say the new law will hurt the creative industries and impede on free speech.
  • The legislation must still be approved by the Council of the European Union, a body of 28 representatives (27 minus the U.K.) of the E.U. member states.

While the Copyright Directive is meant to empower creatives and news publishers, the rules are seen by many as too far-reaching and a threat to freedom of expression and small businesses online. The new legislation includes two articles. Article 13 requires tech companies to obtain permission from rights-holders before copyrighted content is uploaded to their platforms. Article 11 dubbed the “link tax,” will force tech platforms to pay a fee to news companies when they use snippets of their articles in aggregators like Google News.

The Web Foundation, founded by Tim Berners-Lee (widely considered the father of the internet), tweeted that the Copyright Directive “threatens the right to free speech in Europe and sets a terrible precedent globally. This is NOT the web we want.”

Political activist Paul Joseph Watson said that the legislation is part of a “wider move by the political establishment to crackdown on memes because they’re becoming increasingly effective at winning elections.”

On the front lines of the efforts to stop the legislation, YouTuber Markus Meechan (“Count Dankula”) pointed out that he “has not found a single remainer” who supports the directive (a remainer being someone who wants the U.K. to stay in the European Union).

In another tweet, Meecham compared the EU’s emerging internet-policing to that of China’s.

It seems the drama will continue to play out for the next couple of years. Next steps include the EU member states accepting the Copyright Directive’s text. Then each member state will have two years to implement it. We’ll keep the popcorn at bay.

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Clint Whitney