EU Directive for Copyright in the Digital Single Market

The proposed EU Directive for Copyright in the Digital Single Market, including Articles 11 and 13, have been accepted by The European Parliament's Committee on Legal Affairs.

Previous Action

The CIPR drafted this letter for those working in PR to send to their MEP asking them to vote against these proposals and re-open the debate. 

  • The European Parliament initially refused to pass the Directives and submitted over 200 Amendments.
  • The CIPR emailed all UK MEPs prior to a further vote in September 2018. 
  • Following a vote in March 2019, the Copyright Directive will be implemented into the laws of each EU member state by 2021. Read CIPR's responswe here.

Summary

Articles 11 and 13 are vague, contradict other EU directives and would have a widespread impact on current popular use of the internet and a significantly negative effect on internet-based businesses, without solving the issues around copyright online.

Concerns

Article 11 would require online platforms or “Information Society Service Providers” (ISSPs), such as Twitter or Facebook, to pay publishers a fee for linking to news organizations and quoting text from their stories.  Although this is intended to support the news providing organisations, it will harm news aggregating apps and ISSPs and damages the rights of internet users.

Article 13 would require ISSPs to enter into license agreements with rights holders, or to prevent users from sharing any content which is covered by copyright. It is a significant threat to the sharing economy, contradicts the EU Ecommerce directive and infringes the fundamental rights of internet users. The impact is very unlikely to benefit rights holders.

Currently anyone who uploads content to the Internet is responsible for its legality. ISSPs must take action to remove any illegal content they are made aware of. Under these proposals, the platform will be required to establish the legality of content before it is shared, which will require fundamental changes in the way all ISSPs run their businesses. The proposals will make it mandatory to enter into licensing arrangements with rights holders, and to filter copyright content when the user tries to upload it.

Licenses are not a practical option for an ISSP with a mass-user base and the technology to provide effective content filters has not yet been developed. The vast majority of content uploaded to ISSPs is user generated, which calls into question whether mandatory licenses and content filters are a proportionate response.

Overall, the proposals will impact all ISSPs, but will have disproportionate effect on smaller start-up ISSPs. The users of ISSPs may also be prevented from entering into collaborations – the life blood of the digital and sharing economies.

The existing E-commerce Directive already creates liability exemptions for ISSPs offering certain types of intermediary services and provides a prohibition of general monitoring obligations. However, the new proposal is trying to force ‘voluntary’ private policing and filtering duties on all ISSPs for all user uploaded content. The prohibition of general monitoring obligations is anchored in Articles 8 and 11 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, is intended to encourage digital innovation and protect users of the internet in line with articles 7 and 8, 9, 10 and 14 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Specific Impact on PR

The social web has been a driver of significant change in the technical practice of public relations for nearly two decades. ISSPs unlock access to a huge array of publics willing and able to communicate and collaborate with brands and businesses.

No one disputes that users of copyrighted content have an obligation to the rights-holders. However, the manner in which rights-holders are prioritised in the regulation of the digital economy should be held in proportion to the benefits they will derive if any sharing of their content is stifled.

Stifling the sharing economy and the innovative edges of the tech start-up world will not solve the problems that arise around copyright online.

Alastair McCapra, CIPR Chief Executive, says;

“These proposals contradict the EU directive on E-Commerce and are a challenge to the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. They represent a direct threat to the digital economy, they could stifle start ups and yet their impact is very unlikely to benefit rights holders. They would require mandatory licenses and content filters for online sharing platforms, of any size or scale. Licenses are not a practical option for a platform with a mass-user base and the technology to provide effective content filters has not yet been developed. In any case, the vast majority of content uploaded to sharing platforms is user generated. Mandatory licenses and content filters are a disproportionate response to the problem and will not tackle the problem of the illegal sharing of right-protected content online.”