Copyright Controversies: Examining the Proposed EU Copyright Directive

With the growth of the Internet, new questions about copyright protection have arisen. How does a copyright holder effectively prevent a user from infringing their work online? Should internet service providers be responsible for infringement? How do principles of territoriality come into play? What is a reasonable balance between users’ rights and copyright holders’ rights? Various cases, directives and statutes have attempted to address these and similar issues. One recent proposal that attempts to address online copyright infringement is the “Proposal for a DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on copyright in the Digital Single Market” 2016/0280 (COD).

Set to be voted on September 12, 2018, the proposed EU Copyright Directive contains articles that both create exceptions to copyright law and bolsters copyright holders’ power. The directive allows cultural heritage institutions to copy works “in their collections” for the “sole purpose” of preservation and “text and data mining” for research purposes is permissible. Most controversial are articles 11 & 13 of the Directive. Article 11 mandates internet and social media companies to pay “press publications” for posting parts of their works. Article 13 requires content providers, like Youtube, to implement measures to combat copyright infringement on their websites and inform copyright rights holders if infringement occurs. Article 13 lists content recognition technologies as an example of a copyright infringement-fighting measure.

Supporters of the provisions argue that they ensure news providers and artists are adequately compensated for their work. In contrast, organizations like Human Rights Watch, argue that Article 13 threatens freedom of expression and the suggested content recognition technologies introduce an “obligation to monitor”. Additionally, some argue that content recognition technologies would not recognize exceptions to copyright law like parody. Like in many conflicts, important values seem to collide.

Whatever the result of Wednesday’s vote, strong reactions will be assured.



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