EU Copyright Directive Could End Fair-Use Rights You Currently Enjoy

The European Union in mid-September approved a tough new package of internet regulations. It’s called the EU Copyright Directive and it proposes to curtail some of your most cherished online freedoms.

The EU Copyright Directive contains two particularly nasty sections. They are Article 11 and Article 13.

Article 11 gives European news outlets the power to stop you from linking to their content. They can stop you if you don’t first ask for permission and pay a licensing fee.

So, for example, let’s say German news agency DPA ran an article about government regulations to curb your fair-use rights. This article made you angry and you decide to express your outrage by writing a post for your blog. Or maybe you opt to Tweet about it. Or perhaps you plaster across your website homepage a statement of opposition to the new regs.

In this writing of yours, you used two words that DPA also used in its own article. Guess what? You’re in trouble under the EU Copyright Directive if you fail to get DPA’s permission and pay the fee.

By the way, DPA also gets to decide how much to charge you. The fee you pay is entirely up to DPA.

EU Copyright Directive is Sweeping

But here’s the thing. The EU Copyright Directive applies to more than just content created by European news organizations.

Say you go see a pro soccer game during a visit to Madrid. Using your Smartphone, you capture 15 seconds of footage showing the winning play. You post it to Facebook.

Boom. You broke the law.

“How did I break the law?” you ask. Well, it seems that the action you captured during the soccer match is owned by the soccer league.

Sure, your creativity went into taking the footage (and possibly editing it as well). Doesn’t matter. Under the EU Copyright Directive, you just infringed on copyrighted material.

The copyrighted material in this instance is the game and everything related to it.

How They Plan to Catch You

Don’t think you can ignore Article 11’s rules and get away with it.

The other big piece of the EU Copyright Directive is designed to stop that sort of thing.

It’s Article 13. It calls for Big Data to develop a database of every copyrighted work under the sun.

This database will include books, movies, broadcasts, podcasts, images, and even programming code. Anything and everything copyright-able goes into it.

As part of this database, Big Data must also develop upload filters. Done right, the filters will allow authorities to easily determine whether your use of another’s work infringes on his or her copyrights.

Why They Might Not Catch You

Critics of the EU Copyright Directive say the Article 13 database will prove unworkable.

They offer the example of YouTube to demonstrate why.

YouTube runs a copyright-infringement detection system called Content ID. This system launched over 10 years ago at a cost of $60 million-plus.

Supposedly, Content ID is the best-of-breed when it comes to preventing YouTubers from uploading videos copyrighted by someone else.

But there are ways to fool Content ID.

Indeed, lots of YouTubers upload lots of copyrighted videos everyday without getting ever caught by the system.

Worse, Content ID makes mistakes. It sometimes blocks videos the copyright owner wants to upload.

Silver Lining to EU Copyright Directive

So, all of that is the dark cloud. Here’s the silver lining.

The EU Copyright Directive is not yet in effect. And it faces plenty of challenges ahead that may prevent its enforcement.

For starters, representatives of the EU Parliament and of the member EU states must still hash out various details. During that process, the EU Copyright Directive might end up watered down.

Of course, the opposite can happen too. It might end up tougher.

However it ends up, it also must undergo another vote before the full EU Parliament.

After that, each EU member state must pass laws of their own so that they can comply with the EU Copyright Directive. That promises to be a slow process.

Lastly, the EU Copyright Directive must survive lawsuits.
Given all these hurdles ahead, it could be a long time before you lose any of the fair-use rights you currently enjoy.

But regardless of when or even if that day comes, please know that Valet is here for you in the here and now. We can help you ensure that your website satisfies all applicable legal requirements. Drop us a line to learn more.