Will Germany succeed in preventing the Copyright Directive’s undefined ‘upload filters?’
You probably already know the story by now.
Last month, in a landmark vote, the European Parliament the controversial Copyright Directive. 348 Members of European Parliament (MEPs) voted in favor. 274 voted against. 36 abstained.
The bill includes two much-maligned measures. Article 11 (the ‘link’ tax, since renamed Article 15) and Article 13 (‘upload filters,’ renamed Article 17).
Critics had long slammed the bill over the undefined upload filters. Dubbing Article 13 the ‘meme ban,’ major tech companies, most notably Google, claimed the bill would promptly lead to censorship online.
Following the bill’s final approval this week, one key question remains – How exactly will each country implement the so-called ‘upload filters?’
No one knows really knows how upload filters will work.
For the entertainment sector, especially the music industry, the Copyright Directive represents a major victory.
The new law grants rightsholders an improved negotiation position with online platforms that use their works. In addition, authors and performers will benefit from new provisions included in the bill. These include better remuneration and contracts.
Major online platforms, including YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, must now sign formal licensing agreements with creators to use their works. Should they fail to do so, these platforms must ensure infringing content is taken down and not re-uploaded.
As stated earlier, thanks to the use of copyright filtering technology, opponents fear the new law will lead to a police state online. Supporters counter the final approved text never once mentions the phrase.
Issuing a statement following Monday’s final approval, Germany admits ‘upload filters’ won’t exactly work. Yet, Article 13 – now 17 – of the Copyright Directive requires the filters until someone can come up with a better solution.
“There is indeed consensus that creators should be able to partake in the exploitation of their works by upload platforms.
“Article 17 of the Directive establishes an obligation to ensure the permanent ‘stay down’ of protected content which raises the likely use of algorithmic solutions (‘upload filters’), which have raised serious concerns and broad critique among the German public.”
The German government continues it wants to ensure creators’ rights. After all, they have a right to earn fair revenue from the use of works online. Yet, it also wants to protect platforms and users’ rights “where permitted by legislation.”
The European Commission (EC) has yet to develop guidelines for the application of Article 17. Yet, should they fail to do so, Germany will have no choice but to implement ‘upload filters.’
Stating the EC remains obligated to “enter into a dialogue with all concerned parties,” the statement continues,
“The government, therefore, assumes that the dialogue will be borne out of the desire to ensure appropriate remuneration for creators, as far as possible prevent ‘upload filters’, safeguard freedom of speech, and preserve user rights.”
In addition, Germany vows it will ensure Article 17 only targets “market-dominating platforms.” The government will exclude websites like Wikipedia, GitHub, WhatsApp, blogs, and cloud storage platforms, among other sites.
In a joint statement, the five countries which staunchly opposed the Copyright Directive – the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Poland, Italy, and Finland – slammed the final vote.
“The final text of the Directive fails to deliver adequately on the above-mentioned aims.”
Calling the legislation a “step back” for the Digital Single Market, the statement concluded,
“We regret that the Directive does not strike the right balance between the protection of rights holders and the interests of EU citizens and companies.
“It therefore risks to hinder innovation rather than promote it and to have a negative impact [on] the competitiveness of the European Digital Single Market.”
EU Member States have up to two years to implement the Copyright Directive in their respective countries.