We are anticipating some major changes coming as the European Union passed their directive on copyright in the digital single market. The controversial segment, Article 17, (formerly article 13 which was renamed Article 17 in the final draft) has been getting attention from major tech players as well as the entertainment industry.

Article 17 is the part of the directive that dictates how copyrighted content is shared on the internet. This includes TV shows, films, videos, and pictures. This article of this directive requires people to get permission from rights owners (or make the best possible effort) before sharing copyrighted content.

On April 15, 2019, the European Council voted to adopt this directive into EU law.  This specific legislation will impact how we share content online. Proponents argue that the goal is to help spread the money more evenly between people who make content and the platforms that share that content.

Critics claim that this article will have a negative impact on creators online. YouTube and major YouTubers have been vocal opponents of this proposal as well as other social media platforms.

This new law holds creators and platforms accountable for having licenses for content posted. The key to the article is to determine who is to blame for uploading non-licensed content. Article 17, although vaguely written to allow for court interpretation, holds both the poster and the hosting company responsible for ensuring content is licensed.

The biggest problem with this is how platforms will be able to prevent unlicensed content from being uploaded. Major tech companies have argued the changes will be costly and limit free expression. Major players such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have warned they would need to build expensive content filters and stop linking to publications. Internet activists also argued that the requirements may lead to total censorship of the internet. In addition, the cost of compliance for smaller companies is questionable.

The proponents of the article include record labels, artists, media companies and other creators. They argue we needed to update copyright protections for the internet age and to make sure creators of content are adequately compensated.

Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, GitHub, Reddit, and Tumblr, as well as many much smaller platforms will need to be able to check content as it’s uploaded (and face problems when it does not catch all possible violations).  YouTube currently uses a similar system called Content ID for copyright infringement.

Are there any exemptions for content or for specific companies?  Yes, lawmakers included a list of exemptions (including memes and parodies) “for purposes of quotation, criticism, review, caricature, parody, and pastiche” (BBC).  Also, lawmakers excluded organizations such as cloud storage services, online (non-profit) encyclopedias, non-profit educational and scientific repositories (Interinstitutional file). In addition, lawmakers aimed to prevent costly oversite from hindering small business. To prevent that, companies are exempt if they meet the following requirements:

  • Available to public <3 years
  • Turnover less than $10million euros annually
  • Less than $5 million monthly visitors