The European Parliament has granted the Copyright Directive, a highly controversial piece of legislation intended to give copyright holders more control over their work, final approval. The directive was passed with 348 votes in favor and 274 votes against.
However numerous critics have voiced concerns that it will stifle the free flow of information the internet is supposed to provide, and hand yet more power to tech giants. This is largely because of the inclusion of two of the most controversial clauses within the directive, the 'link tax' and 'upload filter'. The link tax, or Article 11, will allow publishers to charge platforms when they use snippets of news stories, a tax Google News has already warned could lead to it shutting down in the EU. The upload filter, or Article 17 as it has been renamed in the latest draft of the legislation, requires upload sites like YouTube to prevent users from uploading copyrighted content.
The main concern is that the initiative will have the opposite of the intended effect. Under the rules, publishers could struggle as it becomes more difficult to share articles meaning that platforms like Google could simply stop displaying news results altogether as was the case when Spain attempted to implement similar legislation. This will mean smaller players will not have the ability to compete with tech giants.
Others are worried it will mean that platforms will begin using 'imperfect' upload filters to scan user-generated content before it is uploaded, meaning that draconian moderation practices will become the new norm.
At the announcement of the Copyright Directive, Julia Reda, MEP for the German Pirate Party, tweeted that it was "a dark day for the internet".
Dark day for internet freedom: The @Europarl_EN has rubber-stamped copyright reform including #Article13 and #Article11. MEPs refused to even consider amendments. The results of the final vote: 348 in favor, 274 against #SaveYourInternet pic.twitter.com/8bHaPEEUk3
— Julia Reda (@Senficon) 26 March 2019
Wikipedia's founder Jimmy Wales added: "The free and open internet is being quickly handed over to corporate giants at the expense of ordinary people. This is not about helping artists, it is about empowering monopolistic practices."
Yet supporters of the legislation claim it will work to balance the playing field between US tech giants and European content creators by giving copyright holders power over how their content is distributed online.
"This is a vote against content theft," remarked Xavier Bouckaert, president of the European Magazine Media Association. "Publishers of all sizes and other creators will now have the right to set terms and conditions for others to re-use their content commercially, as is only fair and appropriate."