“Censorship machines”? – What the reform of copyright means

The EU gets a new copyright. For months, there was much debate – until negotiators from the EU member states and the European Parliament agreed on a provisional reform on Wednesday evening, including ancillary copyright for press publishers.

What does this agreement mean for almost every internet user? And why is she so controversial? Questions and answers at a glance:

Why is the topic so explosive?

Two things were at the center of the discussion: the ancillary copyright for press publishers in Article 11 and the introduction of so-called upload filters in Article 13 of the reform.

According to critics, it was about nothing less than the future of the Internet in its present form. The agreement would run the risk of “placing the Internet, as we know it, exclusively in the hands of technology and media giants,” said pirate European politician Julia Reda.

Around five million people signed a petition against parts of the reform. All sides tried to influence the project. Google, but also Wikipedia and digital associations braced against it – press publishers, media companies and start-ups spoke out vehemently.

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What should the reform actually bring?

When the European Commission proposed the new rules in 2016, it wanted to adapt copyright law to the digital age. “I want journalists, publishers and other authors to receive fair compensation for their work,” said European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Newspaper publishers, authors, record labels and other rights owners create content that is distributed online at great expense – but they sometimes earn little from it.

Also interesting: DSGVO: Do not hire – change!

What is the agreement now?

For one thing, newspaper publishers and authors should get more for their content. Search engines like Google can no longer easily display small parts of articles in their search results or Google News. Rather, they should ask the publishers for permission and possibly pay for it.

On the other hand, platforms such as YouTube are more committed to Article 13. Protected works must be licensed before they land on the platforms – or may not be uploaded.

Excluded are companies that meet three criteria: they must be less than three years old, have a maximum annual turnover of ten million euros and less than five million users per month. In reality, this only affects a few platforms.

The Parliament had actually called for exceptions for all companies with an annual turnover of up to 20 million euros. This is intended primarily to protect start-ups and young companies.

What do the critics say?

They warn that platforms would have to use upload filters because of article 13. Although these are not explicitly mentioned in the reform.

However, companies must do everything possible to prevent copyright infringement. Critics from almost all parties fear that the filters also block legal content such as parodies or quotes – and thus restrict the freedom of expression.

“If Parliament approves, cyber-censorship machines will soon become a reality,” said Left MEP Martina Michels.

The German Digital Minister of State Dorothee Bär (CSU) had spoken on Tuesday against upload filter – and referred to the coalition agreement of Union and SPD. It rejects the obligation to filter as “disproportionate”. Axel Voss (CDU), who led the negotiations for the parliament, stressed, however, that the agreement has “nothing to do with filters, as some supporters of lawless spaces on the Internet is propagated”.

Opponents of the ancillary copyright law see disadvantages for publishers. These are dependent on being listed by search engines, and would therefore have a weak bargaining position with Google and Co.

In addition, they refer to Germany: Here is an ancillary copyright since 2013 – but it does not lead to significant cash payments to publishers. The Association of German Newspaper Publishers and the Association of German Magazine Publishers nevertheless welcomed the agreement of Wednesday as “a great opportunity for independent journalism in the digital era”.

Is that the last word spoken?

Not quite. The agreement on Wednesday has yet to be confirmed by Parliament and the EU states. Usually that’s just formality.

But the copyright reform heats the minds particularly – especially in Parliament is to be expected resistance. Because that wanted to Article 13 a more generous exception. If the plenary opposes it, the reform still fails.

Opponents of the project have already announced that they will go into action on March 23 in Germany against the project. Google wants to analyze the directive in detail now in detail and then decide on the next steps. But that will take some time.

Also interesting: Internet photos and copyright: There is still much need for information

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