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Shubha Ghosh on the EU's Delay of "New Media" Copyright Legislation

Posted on Thursday 7/5/2018
Shubha Ghosh

The European Union (EU) parliament has rejected proposed legislature that would have imposed a tax on tech companies such as Facebook that linked to content (a "link tax") and would have required companies to implement technology to screen copyrighted content from being uploaded to their platforms. 

The legislature was promoted by copyright societies representing artists, authors, and composers and will now be redrafted for reconsideration by the EU in September.

The US has dealt with these issues through the courts. Linking is generally found not to constitute copyright infringement, often protected as "fair use". Screening technology has been voluntarily adopted by platform companies to avoid liability for copyright infringement. 

Furthermore, extended litigation between Viacom and YouTube addressed issues of copyright liability, with YouTube adopting ContentID technology in the late 2000s to help monitor and takedown copyright infringing content. Facebook and other platforms use similar technologies. The use of screening technology has been voluntary rather than mandatory, contrasting with the rejected proposal in the EU.

The impetus for the EU legislation is the concern among authors, artists, and composers that they are not being adequately compensated for use of their copyrighted work online.  

In the US, such issues have been addressed through copyright enforcement against unauthorized uploads and downloads of content and the creation of digital rights going back to amendments to the copyright law in 1996. The recently passed Music Modernization Act extends protection to streaming of sound recordings, an issue of long term and ongoing controversy in the courts and Congress.