EU Copyright directive

EU Copyright directive


A new EU directive for copyright was announced this week. At the time of writing this, Britain is still in the European Union (although we may crash out any day). After years of debate and negotiations, politicians have passed sweeping changes following a final vote in the European Parliament. The changes are controversial, with critics citing two specific parts (Article 11 and Article 13) of the legislation as damaging for creative industries.

To add more fuel to the fire, a story in the Guardian claimed that several MEPs said they accidentally voted the wrong way on a key amendment to the copyright directive, meaning the most controversial aspects of the law might have been removed. Before I explore what the implications are for educators, let’s take a look at the key elements.

Article 11 – The link tax. This probably won’t directly effective educators.

This targets news aggregators such as Google and Apple who each have news services which curate the most important news stories of the day. Those snippets you see when you google a news story. In favour of the Directive are industry bodies representing content producers. These include the Society of Authors, and the UK-based Alliance for Intellectual Property and Proponents.

Google post a preview of what search results could look like in Europe, if Article 11 in enacted.Google post a preview of what search results could look like in Europe, if Article 11 in enacted.

No summaries of stories, no headlines or pictures… A bit dramatic from Google, but from a UX perspective it’s hard to see how this will benefit users. No one is really sure how this one would work either. How much of an article has to be shared before a platform has to pay the publisher? The Directive states that platforms won’t have to pay if they’re sharing “mere hyperlinks which are accompanied by individual words,” but since most links are accompanied by more than a couple of words it seems that many platforms and news aggregators would fall foul of this rule.

Article 13 – This may affect educators.

This the part of the new EU Copyright Directive that covers how “online content sharing services” should deal with copyright-protected content, such as television programmes, movies and images.

Article 13 says content-sharing services must license copyright-protected material from the rights holders. If that is not possible and material is posted on the service, the company may be held liable unless it can demonstrate:

  • it made “best efforts” to get permission from the copyright holder
  • it made “best efforts” to ensure that material specified by rights holders was not made available
  • it acted quickly to remove any infringing material of which it was made aware

If you work in education and you want to incorporate a video in your teaching material and decide to share it on YouTube, fair use would have previously had you covered. Fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticise, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner.

Post Article 13, you should seek permission from the copyright holder in the first instance. Even including a small section of video without consent may cause a problem.

In its defence, the directive does state that “in no way affect legitimate uses” and people will be allowed to use bits of copyright-protected material for the purpose of criticism, review, parody and pastiche. In reality, the temptation will be for platforms to err on the side of caution and simply deny or remove posts they consider questionable… The article seeks to shift the responsibility for protecting the rights of artists and writers to platforms such as YouTube. Companies would have to prevent copyrighted materials from being uploaded, or seek licenses from the people who created them.

When is all this happening? Although the Article 13 vote has been passed by the European Parliament, this doesn’t mean its provisions take place straight away.

It will now be up to the EU’s member states to enact Article 13 and the Copyright Directive. Each country within the EU will be able to interpret the law and how it should be implemented. One country may decide that “upload filters” are appropriate, while another may interpret the law in an entirely different way. Either way, educators need to watch this space.

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