The EU Copyright Directive – Filtering the Internet

2 min

Hot on the heels of last year's GDPR implementation, web-based publishers will now be faced with more unfamiliar legal concerns imposed by the European Union. On Tuesday, the European Parliament passed the European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market by a 348-274 final vote. Among its broad regulations are two key components: a requirement that news aggregators pay licensing fees for snippets and excerpts, and a requirement for certain large websites to police user-generated content for copyright infringement.

Article 11, "protection of press publications concerning digital uses," attempts to make news aggregator sites pay publishers of press publications for using excerpts of their articles. This rule does not extend to persons who merely post hyperlinks of news articles on their social media. 

Article 13, "use of protected content by online content sharing service providers," will hold online service providers who host great amounts of user-generated content liable for not filtering or removing infringing copyrighted material from their websites. The only websites that will not be required to implement upload filters are those that: 1) have been active for less than three years; 2) have an annual turnover below EUR 10 million; or 3) have fewer than 5 million monthly visitors. 

In creating these exceptions, the EU has made it clear that it is targeting technology giants for the benefit of smaller rights holders. But unlike the U.S. online infringement regime, which holds copyright owners responsible for actively policing for infringement and issue DMCA takedowns, the new European law will require large content hosts to develop proactive filtering tools. 

The new copyright law will be implemented in the EU member states by 2021. They will be given the freedom to interpret the law in their own ways and determine how it should be implemented, leaving uncertainties, gray areas, and the potential for conflicting rulings. One thing is certain, however: businesses active on the internet can be subject to legal regimes beyond the U.S. Venable's Copyright and Licensing lawyers are available to discuss this and other copyright laws and will keep you updated with further developments.