EU approves controversial internet copyright law, including ‘link tax’ and ‘upload filter’

By James Vincent

The European Parliament has voted on changes to the Copyright Directive, a piece of legislation intended to update copyright for the internet age. In a session this morning, MEPs approved amended versions of the directive’s most controversial provisions: Articles 11 and 13, dubbed by critics as the “link tax” and “upload filter.”

Article 11 is intended to give publishers and newspapers a way to make money when companies like Google link to their stories, while Article 13 requires platforms like YouTube and Facebook to scan uploaded content to stop the unlicensed sharing of copyrighted material. Critics say these two provisions pose a dire threat to the free flow of information online, and will be open to abuse by copyright trolls and censors.

Read more: EU Copyright Directive: what’s at stake

Defenders of the Copyright Directive and its controversial clauses say this is an unfair characterization. They point to existing laws and newly-introduced amendments that will block the worst excesses of this legislation (like, for example, a law that excuses parodies and memes from copyright claims). They say that the campaign against the directive has been funded by US tech giants eager to retain their control over the web’s platforms.

In remarks following the vote in Parliament this morning, MEP Axel Voss, who has led the charge on introducing Articles 11 and 13 thanked his fellow politicians “for the job we have done together.” “This is a good sign for the creative industries in Europe,” said Voss.

Opposing MEPs like Julia Reda of the Pirate Party described the outcome as “catastrophic.”

It’s important to note that this is far from the end of the story for the Copyright Directive and its impact on the web. The legislation approved today still faces a final vote in the European Parliament in January (where it’s possible, though very unlikely, it will be rejected). After that, individual EU member states will still get to choose how to put the directive in law. In other words, each country will be able to interpret the directive as they see fit.