EU Adopts Copyright Reform, Google And Facebook Face Challenges

The European Union’s copyright law, backed by 19 countries, passed its final hurdle Monday and will become law. Six member states, including Italy and the Netherlands, voted against it.

The updated changes to Article 13, now called Article 17, will make companies such as Google and Facebook liable for copyright breaches. This means platforms like YouTube and Facebook will need a license from rights holders to host the content.

“With today's agreement, we are making copyright rules fit for the digital age,” stated European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. “Europe will now have clear rules that guarantee fair remuneration for creators, strong rights for users and responsibility for platforms.”

Article 17 of the EU Copyright Directive states that services such as YouTube could be held responsible if their users upload copyright-protected movies and music, which are often indexed in search engine such as Google and Bing.

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Juncker called the copyright directive the “missing piece of the puzzle” when it comes to the digital age.

The Copyright Directive is a part of a broader initiative to adopt copyright rules that pertain to TV and radio, supported by the internet, that crosses borders.

Member States will have two years to adopt the Directive into their legislation. Officials will sign the new rules -- as well as the new rules facilitating access to online TV and radio content across borders -- into law on April 17, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The BBC reports that there are a long list of exemptions such as nonprofit online encyclopedias, open source software development platforms, cloud storage services, online marketplaces, and communication services.

YouTube has a Content ID system that can identify copyright-protected music and videos before blocking them, but for smaller companies and startups this type of filter would be too expensive. This may present an opportunity for Google or a startup to build a platform to license to smaller companies.

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