What could the new EU Copyright Directive mean for my business?

Three years after the European Commission proposed new copyright rules fit for the modern age, a final text has now been agreed by the European Parliament. The EU Copyright Directive is designed to better reward the producers of online content; distinguish everyday digital users from those who make a profit online; and enhance safeguards linked to the freedom of expression.

What this means in real life is that producers of content will have enhanced rights over how their creativity (whether written copy, videos, music etc) is used online. Sites such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Soundcloud will become legally liable for any copyrighted material uploaded to them and will need authorisation from the right holders to share or make their content available.

For example: Google will have to get authorisation from your local newspaper for news stories it lists in its search engine, and Facebook will have to do the same when those stories are shared in people’s feeds.

The move helps place liability on businesses making money from other people’s copyright. For creatives and news outlets, this should be good news, as they will be able to generate more money from the content they produce when it gets fed into news services like Google’s. But it might not be such good news for others.

What if my business relies on sharing content?

Your business might be exempt if all three of these characteristics apply:

  1. You’re a start-up that has been active for fewer than three years
  2. Your website turns over less than €10m a year
  3. Your website has fewer than 5m unique monthly users.

If your business is not exempt on the above grounds, it will need to comply with the new directive and if your business allows content sharing on your platform, you will be directly liable for infringements as if you had committed them yourself.

The new rules have the potential to create an unfair playing field for small businesses that find themselves unable to set aside resources for the licensing and technology needed to comply.  Using filters could be an option, but these can be expensive and are not wholly reliable.

Affected companies will have to re-think their business models, and independents may struggle in this new environment which could become further dominated by wealthier and longer-established outlets.

 What’s being said about it?

Forbes recently reported that nearly 64.5 percent of breaking news is consumed through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram instead of traditional media. These tech giants are, unsurprisingly, not pleased with the new legislation and continue to campaign against it.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “…we are making copyright rules fit for the digital age. Europe will now have clear rules that guarantee fair remuneration for creators, strong rights for users and responsibility for platforms. When it comes to completing Europe's digital single market, the copyright reform is the missing piece of the puzzle.”

With EU member states having given the green light to the new directive in April, they now have two years to translate the new rules into domestic law. Whether the UK is in or out of the EU by then, the British government has already confirmed plans to adopt these measures, in a move led by the Intellectual Property Office.

For more information on the EU Copyright Directive, or to discuss your copyright concerns with one of our experts, please get in touch with a member of the Intellectual Property team.

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