Modernisation of the EU Copyright Rules: European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market

Dr Alex Borg  -  31/March/2019

Tremendous changes are coming to online copyright across the European Union. After years of debate and negotiations, politicians have passed sweeping changes following a final vote in the European Parliament, wherein they approved the European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market.

The European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market is a European Union directive that is designed to set a limit how copyrighted content is shared on online platforms.

The notable traits of the Copyright Directive, are:

  • Liability rests on internet platforms for user-uploaded content;
  • Memes and GIFs are specifically excluded from the Copyright Directive;
  • “Individual words or very short extracts” accompanying hyperlinks to news articles can be shared freely;
  • Journalists are entitled to a share of any copyright-related revenue obtained by their news publisher;
  • Lighter obligations apply in relation to start-up platforms.

The most notorious articles in this Directive are Article 11 and Article 13.

Article 11, also known as ‘the link tax’, intends to get news aggregator sites, such as Google News, to pay publishers for using extracts of their articles on their platforms. Press publications:

“may obtain fair and proportionate remuneration for the digital use of their press publications by information society service providers,”[1]

On the other hand, Article 13, also known as ‘the meme ban’ states:

“online content sharing service providers and right holders shall cooperate in good faith in order to ensure that unauthorised protected works or other subject matter are not available on their services.”[2]

In simple terms, all this article is stating is that any websites that host large amounts of user-generated content are responsible for removing that content if it infringes on copyright.

What remains now is for the Council of the European Union to conventionally endorse the text adopted by the European Parliament. Once published in the Official Journal of the EU, the Member States will have two years to transpose the new copyright rules into national legislation.



[1] Article 11 (1) of the European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market.

[2] Article 13 (2a) of the European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market.

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