EU copyright reforms
On 26 March 2019, following months of discord, petitions, demonstrations, and not insignificant amendments to the draft wording, the European Parliament voted to approve controversial new copyright laws as part of a Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. Subject to some further administrative steps, the Directive will shortly be passed into law, giving Member States two years to implement the reforms into national law.
The reforms are important and aim to change the level of responsibility of internet platforms when it comes to online copyright infringement. The rights of creatives, writers, publishers and other copyright owners have been prioritised. The reforms put the obligation squarely at the door of the big internet platforms such as YouTube and Facebook to do more to avoid unlawful use of content. It is no surprise that the reaction from businesses like Google has been a concern that the reforms will ‘hurt Europe’s creative and digital economies’. Although their real concern is likely to be the financial outlay they are now going to need to make.
However, it remains to be seen what the national laws implementing the principles will look like, how the Courts will interpret the Directive and, ultimately, how this will all impact ordinary businesses and internet users. Much will depend on how the body of case law on this grows and develops. For example, how the Courts interpret ‘best efforts’ and how widely they (and the platforms) construe some of the preserved defences such as parody or pastiche. That will be what really decides whether the reforms are the ‘death of the meme’, as many commentators have said they might be.