After years of back and forth, the European Parliament, finally approved Directive 2016/0280 (COD) on Copyright in the Digital Single Market with 438 votes for and 226 against. The directive aims to ‘’reduce the differences in national copyright law regimes and allow for greater online access of copyrighted materials across the European Union.’’
The development of digital technology has significantly disrupted the way intellectual property and other protected subject matter are created, produced, distributed, and consumed all over the world. The entire Internet of Things (IoT) renders various media content universally available at an exponentially increasing rate, and governments are struggling with how to balance freedom of speech and accessibility with intellectual property law and protection for IP owners.
The new Directive would require a comprehensive overhaul of current EU intellectual property legislation that some fear would require tech giants such as Google or Facebook to block the publication of copyrighted content. The change is an attempt to modernize intellectual property legislation to meet the challenges that have come with such rapidly increasing change. However, the fear derives from the idea that the law would promote censorship of content and block freedom on the internet because it would prevent citizens from posting content without permission from the intellectual property owner.
There are two contested articles that have drawn the most attention: Article 11, which would grant press publications copyright over the sharing of their content online, and Article 13 which calls for ‘’effective content recognition,’’ the meaning of which is not entirely clear.
The hashtag #SaveYourInternet was adopted by Twitter users who opposed the approval of the new law, because it would inherently make it very difficult for normal internet users to create memes, video edits, mashups, and GIFS – huge sources of news and entertainment on the web today. Proponents of the Directive include Paul McCartney and David Guetta, among others.
Practically, while the approval of the Directive brings the discussion of intellectual property rights and distribution of content on the internet to light, it will be awhile before any substantial changes are seen. Each EU member state would need to transpose the Directive into national law which could take a number of years. Certainly big tech players will be fighting to prevent the legislation from moving forward, to avoid paying any fees to distribute copyrighted content.
The European Commission introduced the legislation as a part of the Common Digital Single Market Strategy, which was adopted in 2015 with the aim of modernizing and standardizing European intellectual property laws.
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Author: Kathryn Bouchard Trademark Consultant @ iGERENT