On Wednesday, European Union lawmakers voted to force Facebook, Google and other technology companies to share an additional amount of revenue with publishers, European media and other content creators. This marks a major shake-up in terms of copyright rules. Two years back, this debate was introduced by the European Commission and it stated that this overhaul is essential for protecting the cultural heritage of Europe and creating an even playing field between broadcasters, artists, publishers and big online firms. Of the total lawmakers, 226 voted against, 438 in favor and 39 abstentions. The next step involves negotiating with the commission and the 28 countries in the EU have to reconcile their different positions before copyright laws can be amended.
The final vote is expected to be held next year. Emmanuel Macron, the French President, said that this vote marked great advancement for Europe. Andrus Asnip, the digital chief for the Commission, said that this vote sent a positive and strong signal of a reform aimed at protecting EU educators, researchers, media, writers and cultural heritage institutions. The vote was also welcomed by the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe (FSE), the Federation of European Film Directors (FERA) and the Society of Audiovisual Authors (SAA). On the other hand, it was called a disappointing outcome by Google.
The chief business officer for Google, Philipp Schindler, said that this vote was not good for entrepreneurs, creators and innovators. Mozilla, the web browser company, added that the fight was not done yet. They asserted that they would make all the efforts for achieving modern reform for promoting the rights of users and safeguarding the internet’s health. The vote also received criticism from BEUC, a European consumer body. Its director general, Monique Goyens, said that it was difficult to comprehend why EU policy makers didn’t bring copyright law into this century.
More moderate reforms had been favored by Julia Reda, the lawmaker from the European Pirate Party. She said that when a key parliamentary committee adopted changes to a tough line, it was nothing more than cosmetic and could end up putting up the internet’s freedom at risk. While Microsoft, Google and others could be forced to pay publishers for showing news snippets, taxes for these introduced in Germany and Spain didn’t have the desired effect. Instead, the snippet taxes caused the traffic to these websites to decline. As far as the other measure is concerned, it would force platforms such as Instagram and YouTube to install filters.
This would be for ensuring that no copyrighted material is uploaded, but critics said that this would fall under the heading of censorship. Axel Voss, another lawmaker who had been moving this issue across parliament, stated that he had introduced several safeguards and made a number of compromises for small firms after being criticized for his tough stand in the beginning. He said that large tech companies have exploited numerous creators and artists without paying them properly so a fair balance needs to be established between online platforms and European right-holders.