EU’s controversial copyright directive will now become law after approval

26 Mar 2019

Image: © yavdat/

Years of lobbying from some of the biggest names in tech and pop culture have resulted in the EU’s copyright directive getting final approval.

348 votes in favour compared with 274 against concluded one of the mostly hotly contested and lobbied law proposals of recent memory in the EU today (26 March), that being the EU copyright directive.

While designed to replace outdated copyright law, Article 11 and Article 13 (which have since undergone name changes to Article 15 and Article 17, respectively) of the directive were deemed to be the deciding factors in whether it would pass or not.

The latter in particular – known commonly as the ‘upload filter’ because critics said it would result in a strict filter on any uploaded content – went down to the wire during today’s vote, with a last-minute proposal to remove it entirely being narrowly rejected by MEPs by just five votes.

Its final approval – whereby it must now be passed to member states to turn it into national law – means content-sharing platforms must license copyright-protected material from the rights holders. If this is not done, or is not possible, the platform must show it made “best efforts” to obtain permission and ensure the material specified by the rights holder was not made available.

‘A good day for democracy’

Meanwhile, Article 15 will now allow publishers to force Google Search, Google News and other aggregators to pay if they use a snippet of their news content, hence why it has become known as the ‘link tax’. The search giant has argued that under Article 15, if a news organisation sought to charge it for links, it would drastically cut back on or remove any news content from its affected platforms.

Response to the copyright directive’s approval has been largely critical to say the least, with one of the biggest political campaigners against its introduction, MEP Julia Reda, describing the outcome as a “dark day for internet freedom”, complaining that “MEPs refused to even consider amendments”.

In a statement, Google said that while it believes some aspects of the directive were improved compared with its original draft, it “will still lead to legal uncertainty and will hurt Europe’s creative and digital economies”.

Last week, as many as 40,000 protesters marched through German streets criticising the legislation under the slogan ‘Save your internet’.

By comparison, the executive director of the European Publishers’ Council, Angela Mills Wade, welcomed the decision as a “good day for Europe’s independent press and a good day for democracy”.

She added: “This copyright reform marks an important step towards supporting future investment in professional journalism and press publishing, and we look forward to working with member states to secure a pragmatic and workable implementation at national level,” she said.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic