European Union parliament committee approves copyright reforms for internet platforms

EU copyright reforms draw fire from internet luminaries as key vote looms

Created to limit the power over news publishers that tech giants such as Facebook and Google have, it requires online platforms to pay publishers a fee if they link to their news content.

Publishers cheered the committee's vote, calling it a victory for fairness and a recognition that rights holders should be rewarded.

Article 13 would require all platforms to use filters, so that companies such as Google LLC or Facebook Inc. can prevent users of these platforms from uploading copyrighted materials.

Critics say this could mean the end for internet memes where ordinary internet users riff on other people's photos, music or video while others fear it could become a tool to control and spy on users.

Two years after the European Commission presented plans to reform rules to take into account the growing role of online platforms, a key committee at the European Parliament will vote on the issue.

The letter also warned the damage Article 13 would cause to the Internet would be "hard to predict" but certainly "substantial".

A letter titled "Article 13 of the EU Copyright Directive Threatens the Internet" has been sent to the president of the European Parliament and signed by some of the world's leading internet pioneers, including web creator Tim Berners-Lee and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

Tech giants and internet activists argue the copyright laws will limit freedom on the internet.

But several MEPs were against the idea, saying it would help only the most widely known news providers to the detriment of independent and start-up companies, effectively curbing the right to free speech.

"The importance of today's vote can not be overstated; this proposal is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a new balance in the online world", said Helen Smith, the executive chair of the European music body Impala, which represents labels behind acts including Adele, Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand. The internet is only as useful as the content that populates it.

Google's parent company Alphabet, which also owns Youtube, made more than $100bn in revenue a year ago, while Facebook made £40bn over the same period.

It will now go to the wider European Parliament to vote on in July.

"We support the consideration of measures that would improve the ability for creators to receive fair remuneration for the use of their works online", the letter concluded.

Article 11, dubbed the "link tax" by its opponents, was suggested as a method to redistribute some of the profits that Google and Facebook make from sharing news content.

Continuing on the theme of surveillance, Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing said that every European Union platform would be obliged to filter content that goes against the laws.

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