IATE Term of the week: EU copyright law


Copyright law in the digital single market of the European Union, the Copyright Directive particularly, has been one of the hot issues discussed on internet lately. No wonder. This normative is about to change some rules affecting the internet users in their everyday life.  The latest vote of the European Parliament showed that the reform is indeed coming. Nonetheless, we are still in the middle of the legislative process and we will see the details of the norms to be voted on next year. So, what has been debated on the EU copyright law so far and what to expect next?

In principle, we have to cultivate a well-functioning single digital market to ensure the complete freedom of movement of goods and services in the digital age. As the British Copyright Council described the situation: “Current EU copyright laws were passed in 2001 — three years before the launch of Facebook, four years before YouTube and five years before the arrival of Twitter — and are in urgent need of updating to reflect the way in which creative content is used online today.”

Those who invest in creating the content should get a fair deal of the money that their content further generates. In these terms, authors and journalist argue that their work gets de-valuated by the parasitic internet aggregators (aka video/RSS/feed/news aggregators), which do not generate the content but earn huge revenues by using the deep links‘. This would be the issue that you can explore more under the discussions on link tax‘. The same protection of authors financial interests applies to the storage platforms that allow illegal spreading of content under copyright, making the publishing effort not really worth it. The obligation of the big providers to check the legality of the content published via their platforms should be ensured by the so called upload filters.

Yet, drafting regulations to ensure freedom could not but cause strong emotional reactions. A group of entrepreneurs, computer scientists, academics, and others — including the likes of world wide web creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee, security veteran Bruce Schneier, Google chief evangelist Vint Cerf or Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales among others — published an open letter to the European Parliament’s President to oppose parts of the new regulation. The Pirate Party particularly stood up to the Copyright Directive, Julia Reda leading the opposition at the social networks, on Twitter also #SaveYourInternetor or #SaveTheInternet, #LinkTax and #UploadFilters). As serious issues, the threat to freedom of speech and the foreseen burden for small internet entrepreneurs have been heavily discussed (alongside with a splash of memes and other emotional viral content).

What is more, astonishing scope of lobbying for as well as against the new regulation has taken place. For the internauts, for an unknown reason, one the biggest fear concerns the cat memes. While we can be joking with cats, we may hope that the political debate is only followed by (not completely changed into) an emotional battlefield. So, what is actually the current proposal of text of the Copyright Directive?

The text proposed by the Commission in September 2016 can be consulted here and the text agreed on by the Council here. However, more than 200 amendments to the text have been tabled by the MEPs since July, when the proposal by the Legal Affairs Committee did not get the green light to be voted on directly. By some parts of the public opposition to the regulation, this was celebrated as a refusal of the content; in fact, it was a procedural step that opened the proposal to further amendments. After a plenary debate in Strasbourg on the 11th of September, the European Parliament adopted its revised negotiating position on copyright rules. Nevertheless, the directive is still in the full process of creation. Further negotiations will take place to reach a consensus by comparing and discussing the versions of the directive voted on and approved by the European Parliament and the Council. We can expect the final vote on the Copyright Directive by the European Parliament in the beginning of 2019. After that, the member states will take turns in incorporating ultimate text of the directive to the national legislations and constitute the particular rights and obligations that will be binding to their citizens.

In the revised negotiating position, the European Parliament explicitly opposed some of the myths circulating about this normative in general public, notably:

  • Wikipedia and open source software platforms will not be threatened.
  • People will still be able to link to and share other people’s content – sharing hyperlinks to articles, together with “individual words” to describe them, will be free of copyright constrains.

To conclude, the copyright reform remains a controversial issue and the exact final wording of the Copyright Directive shall receive the appropriate expert and public attention. It will most probably bear strong emotions, therefore the checking of facts will certainly stay an important aspect when taking sides. While the Copyright Directive is heading to get its final form, you can contact your MEPs with a question or request concerning it, share some viral content or check our IATE database for new terms.













Interested in more IATE Term of the Week articles? They are available here.




Written by  Veronika Lovritš Communications Study Visitor at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg) and a student of the Master Program in Learning and Communication in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts at the University of Luxembourg. She holds an MA in Law and Legal Science and a BA in Sociology from the Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. She speaks Czech, English, German, French and Luxembourgish.