Directive on copyright in the digital single market

By Alastair Mackichan and Chris Barker

The revised proposal for the new Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market (the “Directive”) has entered its final round of trilogue negotiations (closed door negotiations between the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Council). The Directive is intended to reform and modernise the EU’s outdated legislation in order to make copyright rules fit for the digital age. The final form of the Directive was agreed last Wednesday.

What are the key changes?

If it comes into force, the Directive will revolutionise and rebalance how copyright law affects the internet. The most fundamental change is that the Directive will make any internet platform that hosts large amounts of user-generated content, such as Google or Facebook, responsible itself for policing and enforcing copyright and taking down any infringing content. It is thought that by shifting liability onto the online platforms, it will compel them to secure and pay rights holders a licence fee for the digital use of their works when aggregating external content, thereby encouraging a fairer distribution of revenues.

The agreed text has not yet been made public however the European Parliament has issued a press release in the interim summarising the other key changes:

  • Some uploaded material, such as memes or GIFs, can be shared freely
  • Hyperlinks to news articles, accompanied by “individual words or very short extracts” can be shared freely
  • Journalists must get a share of any copyright-related revenue obtained by their publishing house
  • Start-up platforms will be subject to lighter obligations
  • The directive will not impose filters

What happens next?

The agreed draft needs to be approved by both the European Parliament and the European Council before it will come into force. There is no definite timeline for this stage although it is expected within the next quarter.