What Is Article 11, and Would It Help Businesses in the EU?
Two internet-changing articles that deal with online copyright reform, Article 11 and Article 13, were approved by the European Legal Affairs Committee last month and caused a major uproar with many internet giants.
Unexpectedly, on July 5, the European Parliament decided to reject the reform and moved it for further discussion and debate in the European Parliament.
World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee among many other pioneering figures opposed these articles in an open letter in June, fearing that these two articles would have the power to negatively refashion the landscape of the internet as we know it. The majority of the fears focused on free speech and the flow of free information, which will change how companies, publishers and creators can grow and put a limitation on what content users will consume. If these articles become law, we will be witnessing the possible demise of the World Wide Web, these critics argue.
Highly controversial, Article 13 was the most talked about and criticized article by major internet players as it focuses on preventing users from posting copyrighted content or at least requiring them to hold a license that enables them to do so. If Article 13 becomes active, platforms would have to put in place content recognition systems that would prevent duplication and re-posting of copyrighted material. This type of content recognition has already been used in music and video, which enables platforms like YouTube, Soundcloud and Facebook among many others to detect and remove any copyrighted music that does not belong to the uploaders. While this system works great in theory, uploaders have had the trouble of having their content removed without notice, even if they are the original owner. Thus, platforms have allowed the uploaders to appeal the copyright issue through strenuous forms, which allows them to reinstate the content in its original manner.
On the other hand, Article 11 has a different purpose as it focuses on paying news publishers a fee if their content is linked to platforms such as Google. Many critics have labelled it as a Link Tax. With this possible change has come uncertainty for small publishers who rely on their links to be shared by users and aggregators like Google News and Bing News. Furthermore, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, this will hurt websites such as Wikipedia as it relies on reference links to confirm information provided by users, thus putting free information in danger of being limited by users of the internet.
Will Article 11 be a problem for companies?
Companies that thrive on sharing news content on their everyday platforms will feel the impact the most. However, as of this moment, Article 11 will solely include press published content, which means personal blogs and content not created by press outlets will be available to be shared without a fee. Additionally, with the rise of the blogs and small independent outlets, the definition of the word “press” has become more broadly defined than ever before, and thus a distinction will have to be made by the European Legal Affairs Committee or the content creators themselves.
Will publishers lose out on readers?
For publishers, reader numbers will likely drop heavily if Article 11 comes into place. A similar type of law passed in Germany in 2013, which let publishers charge a fee for their content to be published on Google News. As expected, reader numbers dropped heavily, and in the end, local publishers offered their news for free as Google stopped prioritizing their content. Thus, if the law passes aggregators and platforms that bring in a major chunk of the readership to the press outlets, could deprioritise European content on their platforms.
Will it help your company?
At this moment in time, it looks like Article 11 will only help protect the press from having their content shared without a fee. Hence, most companies will not gain anything from it as companies will only occur fees for sharing press related content.
Should companies be worried?
While the articles have been approved by the European Legal Affairs Committee, to make them official, they must be passed by the entire European Parliament in a plenary vote. Thus, for now companies that rely on sharing press and copyrighted content can stay calm and make the most of what is now available for free.
The two articles will next be taken back into the European Parliament, which is made up of 751 members, for further discussion and debate about the negatives and positives of the reform. If passed in the European Parliament, each member state will have to approve the reforms through the EU Council, before it is returned for a final vote in the European Parliament in December or January.