Skip to main content

EU sends controversial internet copyright reforms back to the drawing board

EU sends controversial internet copyright reforms back to the drawing board


It’s a strong rejection of the legislation in its current form, but not the end of the battle

Share this story

The European Union has rejected controversial legislation intended to reform online copyright. 318 MEPs voted against the draft law, compared to 278 in favor. The legislation now returns to the drawing board, before being sent for a second vote in September.

The draft law, known as the Copyright Directive, was intended as a simple update to copyright for the internet age. But it attracted substantial criticism for the inclusion of two key provisions: Articles 11 and 13. The first, Article 11, was a “link tax” that would force online platforms like Facebook and Google to pay news organizations before linking to their stories; while the second, Article 13, proposed an “upload filter” that would have required all content uploaded online to be checked for copyright infringement.

Campaigners said the legislation would destroy the internet as we know it

Campaigners denounced these provisions as unworkable, and a petition named “Save Your Internet,” led by MEPs like Julia Reda of the European Pirate Party, attracted more than 700,000 signatures. Today, Reda hailed the vote as “great success,” but said campaigners needed to “keep up the pressure” if they wanted a permanent victory.

The rejection of the Copyright Directive will be a relief to US tech giants, who would have incurred serious costs to adapt to the ruling. Individual users would also have likely been adversely affected by the law, with some campaigners claiming the proposed “upload filter” would have meant an end to sharing memes, which frequently use copyrighted material.

In a statement from the Mozilla, the vote was welcomed as “great news” for Europe’s citizens and startups alike. “The European Parliament has today heard the voice of European citizens and voted against proposals that would have dealt a hammer blow to the open internet in Europe,” said Mozilla’s head of EU public policy. “The future of an open internet and creativity in Europe depends on it.”

But campaigners who supported the legislation say rejecting it further entrenches the power of large US tech companies, while hurting individual artists and creators. They viewed the “upload filter” and “link tax” as tools tool that would allow copyright owners to win back money from internet firms who profit from their work.

Europe’s Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers of Music (SACEM) said the vote was a “set-back but not the end.” David El Sayegh, SACEM’s secretary general, said the group still hopes to reach a “fair agreement” with internet giants that “will safeguard the future of the music industry.” A number of notable musicians came out in favor of the legislation, including former Beatles member Paul McCartney and French producer Jean-Michel Jarre.

But a rejection of the Copyright Directive in its current form may still benefit both sides. After the legislation passed an initial vote last month, campaigners said they feared the law would be discussed in only closed-door meetings between EU lawmakers and member states known as “trilogues.” This would have severely limited the ability of MEPs and EU citizens to weigh in on the legislation.

Instead, with today’s vote, there will be “open debate,” said digital rights association EDRi. Changes could be made that will satisfy both sides — giving copyright holders more power without destroying the open principles upon which the internet was founded.