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EU passes divisive Article 13 copyright law

The jury is out on whether this is a win for creatives or dark days for the internet.
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In what should be its final vote on the matter, the European Parliament approved its new, highly controversial copyright rules. While the Copyright Directive is meant to empower creatives and news publishers, the rules are seen by many as over the top and a threat to freedom of expression. The directive has been debated since the EU first voted on it in 2016, and while the rules are now final, it's likely the debate will continue as the directive is handed down to member states.

The Copyright Directive makes internet platforms liable for content uploaded to their sites. Companies like Facebook, YouTube and Google will be responsible for checking all uploaded content for copyrighted material, per Article 13 (renamed Article 17). And news aggregators will be required to pay for snippets that go beyond "individual words or very short extracts," thanks to Article 11. Critics say both articles could restrict how content is shared online. YouTube has protested the rules as a threat to the creative economy, and Google -- perhaps the most vocal critic to date -- has gone as far as to say the directive would create a digital ghost town. Even the EU Parliament has gone back and forth on the matter.

Passed today with 348 votes in favor and 274 against, the updated Copyright Directive does include "safeguards on freedom of expression" -- memes and GIFs are now specifically excluded from the directive and start-up platforms are subject to lighter requirements. But there's still pushback. "The #eucopyrightdirective is improved but will still lead to legal uncertainty and will hurt Europe's creative and digital economies," Google Europe tweeted.

Next, the EU's member states need to accept the Copyright Directive's text. Then, they'll have two years to implement it. "The details matter, and we look forward to working with policy makers, publishers, creators and rights holders as EU member states move to implement these new rules," Google Europe said. So, while the Copyright Directive finally has a definitive vote, the drama will continue to play out for at least a couple of years.

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