Article 13: EU passes controversial new copyright law

 that will affect internet as we know it; will it impact India?



In a final vote, the European Parliament has passed the controversial new Copyright Directive, which impacts the linking to news as well as the publication of copyrighted content by intermediaries. This directive includes Article 11 which has been called as the 'link tax' and Article 13 which has been called the 'upload filter', 'meme killer', among other things.

As per this reportthe EU Parliament voted 348 votes in favour and 274 against the Directive. Around 36 voters remained absent.

The next step, based on the EU procedure, will be the finalisation of the text of the law by the European Council, followed by the publication of the final text in the Official Journal of the EU, following which each national government in the EU will enact individual laws implementing the directive.



What is Article 13?

The primary provision of the new law that creates these concerns is Article 13, which impacts the provision of access to copyrighted content by ‘information society service providers’. This term refers to most intermediaries, like YouTube, Google, etc. Officially, it refers to a service provider providing a service, at a distance, by electronic means, and at the individual request of the recipient of services (Article 1(2) of EU Directive on Information Society Services). In addition to Article 13, another provision creating concern is Article 11, which protects press publications (also known as the ‘link law’) and impacts activities such as Google News linking to news articles.

The fundamental requirement of Article 13 is that any service providers who provide access to copyrighted content online, must ensure that proper licenses to such works are obtained from the owners of the copyright. This would apply to any kind of copyrighted content, be it audio, video, written materials, software code, photographs, etc. The law, further, requires the service providers to adopt methods to either verify that such agreements are in place or to prevent the upload of content where this is not possible. The aim of the law is to ensure that copyright owners receive a proper share of the revenues earned by such service providers and others through the use of their content.

Impact globally and for India

Since this is an EU law, its impact is territorially limited to the EU, and its main impact will be for the provision of access to such content, by service providers, within the EU. India and other countries, however, will not be completely immune from its effects, since the global nature of the internet means that many in these countries will have a European base, which they cannot afford to lose.

An example is of content creators with a large European audience, who will now have to ensure that any content they create does not fall afoul of the systems adopted by the tech companies to deal with the content they host. Similarly, any Indian hosting provider, app, website, or other service provider that provides access to online content, will have to ensure compliance with the new law in relation to the content that can be accessed in the EU.

Such persons or the tech companies may thus need to differentiate between content that can be accessed from the EU and content accessed from elsewhere. Apart from this, if the tech companies decide to implement the technologies like content filters at a global level, as opposed to an EU level, then any content uploaded anywhere will meet with the same issue.


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