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The European Parliament has voted to pass its copyright rules, with 438 members voting for and 226 against, while 39 members abstained.

A vote taken in July failed to pass the rules, with the parliament's plenary voting 318-278, with 31 abstentions.

The rules have now passed what is the first stage of implementation, after safeguards were added to protect small companies and also freedom of expression.

They will now be discussed between the Parliament, the Council of the Europe Union (which represents national governments) and the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union.

Once a final version is thrashed out, it will be sent to the 27 EU member states - the UK is likely to be on its own by then due to Brexit - for adoption by each government.

A statement from the European Parliament outlined the four major gains from the rules:

  • Tech giants must pay for work of artists and journalists which they use;
  • Small and micro platforms are excluded from the directive’s scope;
  • Hyperlinks, “accompanied by “individual words”, can be shared freely; and
  • Journalists must get a share of any copyright-related remuneration obtained by their publishing house.

Rapporteur Axel Voss, who was been steering the rules through Parliament, said: “I am very glad that despite the very strong lobbying campaign by the Internet giants, there is now a majority in the full house backing the need to protect the principle of fair pay for European creatives.

"There has been much heated debate around this directive and I believe that Parliament has listened carefully to the concerns raised. Thus, we have addressed concerns raised about innovation by excluding small and micro platforms or aggregators from the scope.

"I am convinced that once the dust has settled, the Internet will be as free as it is today, creators and journalists will be earning a fairer share of the revenues generated by their works, and we will be wondering what all the fuss was about.”

The statement said: "Parliament’s position toughens the Commission’s proposed plans to make online platforms and aggregators liable for copyright infringements.

"This would also apply to snippets, where only a small part of a news publisher’s text is displayed. In practice, this liability requires these parties to pay right holders for copyrighted material that they make available.

"Parliament’s text also specifically requires that journalists themselves, and not just their publishing houses, benefit from remuneration stemming from this liability requirement.

"At the same time, in an attempt to encourage start-ups and innovation, the text now exempts small and micro platforms from the directive."

It said that any action taken by platforms to check that uploads did not breach the rules would have to be designed to avoid catching non-infringing works.

The rules will not affect the uploading of content "in a non-commercial way" to sites such as Wikipedia and open source platforms like GitHub which will not have to comply with the copyright rules. How long GitHub will remain open source remains to be seen now that it has been bought by Microsoft.

The text passed by the Parliament also gives authors and performers more negotiating rights and enables them to claim "additional remuneration from the party exploiting their rights when the remuneration originally agreed is 'disproportionately' low compared to the benefits derived".

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the sitecame into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

 

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