New EU Copyright Directive

Written by: Benjamin E. Leace & Friedrich Scheele

Yesterday, the European Parliament made the first major change to copyright law in years by approving the Copyright Directive. The European Union member states have 24 months to incorporate and implement the Directive into their respective national laws.

The final vote (348 in favor and 274 against) followed a fierce public debate, particularly over Article 13 (now Article 17) which requires online content sharing (hosting) providers to filter copyrighted content from their websites.  Online content-sharing service providers (Google, YouTube, etc.) will need permission from copyright holders (for instance by a license agreement) to host copyright-protected content. This requirement covers not only the conduct of the service providers, but also acts carried out by their users (who upload content).

Without permission from the rights holder, the hosting service providers may now be liable for unauthorized acts (e.g., unauthorized content posted by the service providers or their users), unless they used their best efforts to obtain a license, used their best efforts to ensure the unavailability of copyright infringing content and deleted unauthorized content after being informed of the violation by the copyright holder.

The debate over this aspect of the Directive squared copyright holders against hosting services and those believing that the Directive amounts to censorship.

It will be interesting to see how the member states implement the Directive into their national laws and how the debate over content filtering continues.