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Milestone v risk to innovation: EU govts back controversial copyright regulation despite protests

Milestone v risk to innovation: EU govts back controversial copyright regulation despite protests
A majority of EU governments approved a much-criticized copyright directive, targeting platforms like Google and Facebook. The new rules were earlier slammed by Big Tech, rights groups, and ordinary users alike.

The European Council backed the new directive on Monday. Among its sweeping changes is making large content platforms like Facebook, Google, YouTube, and Wikipedia liable for copyright violations by their users. In order to avoid being sued, they will have to either buy the licenses for the works uploaded, or use expensive "upload filters" to scan all the content for potential copyright breaches.

Another controversial provision allows media publishers to charge tech firms like Google for displaying their news stories. Nineteen EU nations, including France and Germany, voted for the document. Romanian Minister for Culture and National Identity Valer-Daniel Breaz hailed its "balanced text" as "a milestone for the development of a robust and well-functioning digital single market."

A completely opposite opinion was voiced by Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Finland, and Luxembourg, all of whom voted 'no'. The directive "does not strike the right balance between the protection of right holders and the interests of EU citizens and companies," the five countries said in a joint statement earlier this week. They also argued that the document "risks to hinder innovation rather than promote it," and "lacks legal clarity."

Estonia, which abstained along with Belgium and Slovenia, held similar views, saying the directive fails to ensure "different interests in all aspects."

As the new rule set faced backlash, its backers tweaked some of the wording, like adding the promise to not punish users for making and sharing memes and gifs without obtaining permission of the rights holders first. Nevertheless, the key controversial parts remained intact, prompting fears of censorship and losing free access to information.

Also on rt.com ‘Save the Internet’: 1,000-strong rallies against EU copyright bill hit European cities (VIDEO)

Over 70 internet pioneers, including Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, and World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, came out against the changes when they were initially proposed. They slammed the directive as "an unprecedented step" that would turn the internet from "an open platform for sharing and innovation" into "a tool for automated surveillance and control of its users."

The proposed legislation was heavily criticized by digital rights groups, tech giants, and ordinary users on social media. Google said improvements have been made to the document, but it will "still lead to legal uncertainty and will hurt Europe's creative and digital economies."

People also took the fight to the streets in numerous European cities, with tens of thousands rallying against the new rules in Germany alone.

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