Reforms to copyright law proposed last week by the European Commission would put the burden on Internet companies like Google, Facebook and YouTube to prevent online piracy and compensate content providers, like music companies and news providers.
In a shift in policy the proposals issued by the European Commission would require websites that host video and stream music to shoulder more responsibility for rooting out copyright infringements.
Under the current rules, reports the Financial Times, YouTube, Facebook and other video platforms remove material on a case-by-case basis only after being notified by rights-holders. If adopted, the proposals would require them to run proactive software checks to determine whether content they are hosting contained copyright material.
The European Commission proposal is intended to prevent piracy, which has haunted the music industry and recording artists which has shed more than 60% of its value since 2000, and to prop up content providers like newspapers and magazines, which have seen declines in print circulation.
The reforms aim the foundation of a long-running fight between struggling traditional media companies — from record labels to newspapers — and the technology groups that increasingly dominate online media.
Critics say the EC is seeking to shift the responsibility for identifying copyrighted content by requiring Internet companies that host user uploaded video, such as YouTube and Facebook, to proactively check for copyrighted material, rather than waiting to receive a take down request from a rights holder.
Industry trade publication TechCrunch reports that “The draft directive also includes a proposal for a new right for news publishers covering digital use of their content for 20 years. Unsurprisingly, Google is not a fan of this.”
This extended right is similar to ancillary copyright laws already enacted by governments in Germany and Spain which target search engines displaying snippets of news stories.
The law as enacted in Spain included a mandatory fee for displaying snippets, one line summaries from publishers, and led to Google to pull its Google News service in the country. While many Germany publishers waived their rights in favor of retaining the traffic Google sends their way.
Whether YouTube’s free site is directly competing with paid services such as Apple Inc.’s Apple Music and Spotify AB is a matter of debate, reports the Wall Street Journal. According to a YouTube spokeswoman, “users come to YouTube to watch all kinds of different videos. The average YouTube user spends an average of an hour a month consuming music, far less than music-only platforms.”
The European Commission’s proposals, which come after a three-year review aimed at updating copyright law for the digital age, could take years to ratify. The proposals have been—and are likely to remain—the subject of heavy lobbying from copyright holders like record labels and newspaper publishers on one hand, and technology firms on the other.
It will be interesting to to see if the EU will be successful in rolling back what Internet users have come to believe is free content that until now has not been seriously policed.
A draft of the proposed EU reforms can be found here.
Image source:1709blog.com; openforumeurope.org