Creative protection or ‘link tax’? European Union votes for controversial internet copyright law

View of the European Parliament Building in Strasbourg

EU votes to adopt controversial copyright law that could ban memes and 'destroy the internet'

In reference to Article 13, it has been proposed that content filters could be used to help web firms clamp down on users sharing copyrighted content, but Derrington said the impact this could have on how people use the web does not appear to have been taken into account.

The Directive has proved to be highly controversial, with a number of high-profile artists and digital rights campaigners, such as Paul McCartney, Wyclef Jean and Tim Berners-Lee, weighing in on either side of the argument.

"This is a great day for Europe's creators", said Helen Smith, executive chair of European music entity IMPALA.

He says previous experiments (in Germany, for example) to force content aggregators to pay news organisations for their material simply haven't worked, mainly because Google has enough clout to force publicity-hungry publishers to sign contracts allowing free diffusion.

"[It] takes an unprecedented step towards the transformation of the internet from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users", web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales warned in a June letter to a top European Union official. In the case of Article 11, they note that attempts to "tax" platforms like Google News for sharing articles have repeatedly failed, and that the system would be ripe to abuse by copyright trolls.

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Among other things, the report calls for automatic filters of uploaded content that would identify copyrighted material.

Not all reaction was positive, however, German member of European Parliament, Julia Reda, said that the decision was a "severe blow to the free and open internet".

Despite the amendments, some still view the laws as hindering freedom of expression online.

Supporters argue the rule will safeguard media pluralism in Europe, but major tech companies have lobbied heavily against it. Backers say this protects creators and levels the playing field; opponents say it's death to the unfettered web, turning tech companies to content police. If search engines are required to pay licensing fees for every bit of text, some results will inevitably be removed when a certain publisher proves untraceable, links or outlets are not considered viable enough to contend with, or a publisher refuses to license their content for any reason. But the lawmakers behind the initiative argue that links are exempt. Spain approved a similar provision in 2014 that persuaded Google to shutter the Spanish portal of its Google News service, which consisted of snippets from and links to news stories.

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