3EU’s New Copyright Directive Proposal: Boon for Strengthening IPR Law Protection or Bane on the Individual Internet Freedom?

We are at a time where the internet is bringing the world closer together, turning itself into a close-knit community. Internet has enhanced and rather increased the exchange of information. Amidst that, law enforcement agencies and governments all over the world have enacted various laws for channelization of data, protection of internet users, privacy of the individuals, etc. for example, in the European Union, the recent law, is the GDPR which is a privacy regulation which has come into operation in May, 2018, however, the major focus of this article would be in the intellectual property law domain; Furthermore, of the recent would be the most debated EU’s new copyright directive- proposal, that is  yet to be approved. It is argued that, while, having such a law would give more protection to the owners of the copyright content, it is countered that it may deprive the internet users, the world, of the vast copyrighted data currently available. It is in this light, that the probable impact of the new copyright proposal will be analyzed and discussed.

 INTRODUCTION

Many are aware about the new privacy legislation of the European Union which is very talked off and debated all over the world, i.e. the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). While, the GDPR was introduced in 2016 and implemented in May 2018 not only EU but the entire world is still grappling with its various adherences and compliances. Due to its extra territoriality aspect, the GDPR is affecting all the countries, other than EU. What is even more surprising is European Union’s new copyright directive proposal. Ever since the beginning of internet age, various intellectual property rights law has been put in place for the same. These laws have been amended all over the globe in various jurisdictions to incorporate the IPR violations if any in the digital space. A similar amendment has been proposed in the EU’s copyright law, whose probable effects and consequences will be discussed in this article.

EU’S NEW COPYRIGHT DIRECTIVE

The EU Copyright Directive is the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. It is rather an attempt to harmonize copyright laws across all the European Union member states.

The initial EU copyright law (which the new draft proposal seeks to amend) was put in place in 2001, at a time when the intellectual property law protection became vital even in the digital space. It is majorly designed to update the law and make it more relevant in the cyber space in order to grant more protection to the copyrighted content. One of the biggest criticisms it faces is that it is vague and overly harsh. The two major provisions, i.e. Articles 11 and 13 are considered to have a major impact on the individual freedom.[1]

MAJOR PROVISIONS IN QUESTION

As mentioned above, the two major provisions i.e. Article 11 and 13 of the draft proposal/directive have been criticized as being harsh and oppressive to the individual internet freedom.

Article 13, implies that it would force all online platforms to police and prevent the uploading of copyrighted content, or make people seek the correct licenses to post that content. For the most part this would mean filters that check content as it’s uploaded would be mandatory for platforms including Facebook, Instagram, GitHub, Reddit and Tumblr, but also many much smaller platforms. YouTube already uses such a system — called Content ID — to protect copyright infringement, but the technology to do this is extremely expensive and has taken over 11 years to build and refine.

Article 11, although has gained a considerable light of criticism due to it being harsh and oppressive but to a lesser extent. This article states that companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft may have to pay publishers for showing snippets of news articles.”[2]

IMPACT OF THE NEW COPYRIGHT DIRECTIVE IF MADE A LAW

The impact of the new copyright directive would be on two entities:

1) individuals i.e. users, 2) social networking sites.

ON THE PEOPLE

On one hand, the EU has the GDPR, which is the much-needed privacy law meant for safeguarding the interests of the users in terms of the data content which they would share online and the possibility of it being likely to be misused by the various sites online. On the other, is the new copyright directive? Under this new copyright directive, any user who intends to use any creative content produced by the artist, songs or dance artist, composers or anybody will be liable as per the new directive. Rather they may have to seek the correct licenses for it or else the copyrighted content after being filtered will have to be removed. Not only that, any memes, remixes, or anything concerning any artist will not be uploaded or rather can be but with restrictions mentioned in the draft proposal. The entire purpose of internet which is connecting with people, free flow of ideas, information, may get hampered drastically. One cannot imagine the impact it would have on the people of the European Union. Due to these reasons, various protests have taken place in a bid to take down the proposal.

 ON THE SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES

This directive may make these sites redundant as then the people may be unable to upload the data they may want to. The most controversial provision is the “Article 13, which requires websites to enforce copyright, even on content uploaded by users. Critics believe this could mean that social media sites and others would have to check every piece of content uploaded – a task that would be impossible for humans. Instead, it would require automated copyright checking systems, put in place by each company – a potentially expensive process. Such systems have a high error rate, and have already been controversial on platforms, like YouTube, where they have been implemented. Such systems have been labelled “censorship machines” or an “upload filter” by critics of article 13.It has also led to fears that popular memes, remixes, parodies and other material which use small amounts of copyrighted material could become a thing of the past.”[3] Due, to this, the Italy Wikipedia has shut down in protest of the EU copyright law on 3rd July, 3018

 WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

“The initial proposal to reform EU copyright law was presented by Günther Oettinger shortly before leaving his post as Digital Commissioner.EU member state governments approved the plans (with slight changes) in the Council. The Legal Affairs Committee narrowly approved the plans (with slight changes) – but in a surprise move, the Parliament then refused to rubber-stamp the Committee’s position, opening it up for further debate. Next, the entire Parliament will vote on changes to the Committee position on September 12, 2018.After closed-door compromise negotiations between the institutions, the Parliament will have to approve the result one final time.”[4]

CONCLUSION

While, it is understood that the copyrighted material of various artists, composers, etc must be protected, a balance between the two, i.e. the internet freedom of the individuals and the rights of the artists, singers, rappers, composers, etc must be maintained. This is rather advocated by many all over the globe. The probable effects, consequences, impact of the same highlight only the possibilities of the copyright (proposed) law that may happen. The actual implications of the same are difficult to measure. Yet, it is further emphasised that a balance must be maintained between the two, i.e. the internet freedom of the individuals and the rights of the artists, singers, composers, etc, so as to ensure that the one doesn’t work to the detriment of the other.

Author: Shruti Gupta, Legal Intern,  at  Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys. In case of any queries please contact/write back to us at pratistha@iiprd.com.

References:

[1] https://www.cnet.com/news/article-13-europes-hotly-debated-eu-copyright-law-explained/

[2]https://www.cnet.com/news/article-13-europes-hotly-debated-eu-copyright-law-explained/

[3]https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-44696302

[4]https://juliareda.eu/eu-copyright-reform/

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