LONDON    -   The European Union has approved a copyright overhaul that aims to give more protection to artists and news organizations but which critics say will stifle freedom of speech and online creativity and punish smaller web companies.

Artists, celebrities and tech experts have spoken out both in favor and against the EU directive, which the 28 member states are required to adopt as law and got final approval from the European Council Monday.


The most vigorously debated part of the legislation is a section that makes companies responsible for making sure that copyrighted material isn’t uploaded to their platforms without permission from the original creator. It puts the legal onus on platforms to prevent copyright infringement but critics say it will end up having a chilling effect on freedom of expression on the internet and could result in censorship.

Another section of the bill that caused concern requires search engines and social media sites to pay for linking to or offering up snippets of news articles.

Some sites would be forced to license music or videos. If not, sites would have to make sure they don’t have unauthorized copyrighted material. Critics worry that could lead to costly automatic filtering. And paying for links could create further costs.

That could give tech giants an edge over smaller companies. Google said last year it spent more than $100 million on Content ID, its copyright management system for approved users on YouTube, where more than 400 hours of content is uploaded every minute. The figure includes both staffing and computing resources.


Critics say it could act as censorship and change internet culture. They say the automatic filters are blunt instruments, deleting some material that should be allowed online.

YouTube has warned of unintended consequences, saying that in cases where copyright is uncertain, it would have to block videos to avoid liability. Some consumers worry that the new rules would bring an end to parodies and viral internet “memes” that have powered online culture and are often based on or inspired by existing songs or movies or other content. The EU denies this.

“The new law makes everyone a loser,” said Julia Reda, a lawmaker with the Pirate Party, which campaigns for freedom of information online. “Artists, authors and small publishers will not get their fair remuneration and internet users will have to live with limited freedoms. Artistic diversity has made the Internet colorful, but unfortunately the copyright directive will make the Internet duller.”

BLUB- The new law makes everyone a loser,” says Julia Reda, a lawmaker with the Pirate Party

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