On Tuesday 26th March 2019, the new Copyright Directive was finally passed, winning by 348 votes to 274. It will come into effect in 2021.
This is the first change to the EU’s copyright rules since the turn of the century and has - as you’d expect - created rather a lot of concern among businesses and content creators (although there are plenty who have also been campaigning for such a directive).
Today, we’d like to address some of those concerns and hopefully answer some questions you might have about the copyright directive.
What’s it all about?
Known as the ‘Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market’, this new rule aims to ensure that people who create content benefit from the same rights protection online as they do within the offline world.
Outdated copyright rules mean that online platforms can reap the rewards from publishing content produced by others by circulating it for free and receiving income that isn’t passed onto the creator. As a result, it has become increasingly difficult to make a decent living online if you’re a content creator.
Does the Copyright Directive impact web users?
The directive doesn’t seek to target the ‘ordinary’ user of the internet - it’s simply designed to impact large online platforms such as YouTube and Facebook by making them responsible for properly remunerating content creators who’s work has been monetised by their services.
Does the new directive impact internet freedom?
No, it doesn’t.
Internet freedom is incredibly important and the copyright directive won’t prevent content creators (be they professionals or individuals indulging in a hobby) from uploading their own stuff.
Most the big platforms currently provide income for content creators on a voluntary basis, and, arguably, even then it’s only to a limited degree. This is because they’re not currently held liable for the content they host and distribute; there’s simply no incentive to offer a decent return or ‘thanks’ for the people who own the content.
The Copyright Directive isn’t designed to censor content, either - it instead seeks to place increasing pressure on the big boys of the internet to ensure they pass fair compensation onto content creators when their work is shared.
Will it involve automated content filters?
This is a sticky subject, unfortunately.
The new directive does require content distributors to install specialised filtering software that will identify copyrighted content when it’s being uploaded. However, if the platform pulls in less than 5m unique visitors each month, it may not need to install these filters.
The controversy surrounding this element firstly relates to the cost of the filters, which may be prohibitive for some services (and probably not accounted in their budgets), and the likelihood that they’ll be less than bullet-proof.
Does it apply to all content?
In short, yes - but there are exceptions based on the amount of content being shared.
News aggregators will be able to display small snippets of content without gaining authorisation for doing so from the creator. This is defined as a ‘very short extract’, or individual words, which if met, suggests the aggregator isn’t abusing their ability to publish other people’s content.
Will it kill content start-ups?
It’s unlikely, and this is why there’s no reason to panic if you’re running or considering setting up a content-based business.
As noted before, the average monthly unique visitor numbers need to be above 5m if you’re to abide by the new rules, but platforms that have been set up less that three years ago won’t be subjected to the more harsh obligations placed on the big boys.
We can’t stress this enough - there’s no reason to panic about the Copyright Directive. It’s coming and there’s no stopping it, but it is designed to protect content creators and ensure they receive adequate recompense for their work. That can only be a good thing.