The EU Copyright Directive is so bad it’s proving really hard to transpose into decent national laws

Walled Culture has written numerous posts about the EU Copyright Directive, because it contains two extremely harmful ideas. The first is the “snippet tax“, an attempt by some press publishers to make sites like Google pay for the privilege of displaying and linking to newspaper publishers’ material – an assault on the Web’s underlying hyperlink technology. The second element is the upload filter, probably the worst development in the copyright world of the last few decades.

The EU Copyright Directive is not just a bad law, it is a badly-drafted law. That’s proved by the fact that three years after the Directive was passed, and nearly a year since what was supposed to be the deadline for transposing it into national legislation, fewer than half of the EU’s Member States have done so, reported here by Euractiv:

only twelve EU countries [out of 27] have incorporated the measure into their national bodies of law, with Austria, Croatia, Estonia, France, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and Luxembourg doing it only after the Commission’s reprimand.

It comes as no surprise that the two main sticking points are precisely the snippet tax – Article 15 – and upload filters – Article 17. As the former Member of the European Parliament Felix Reda, who was involved in the legislative process of this Directive, told Euractiv, Article 17 in particular is a problem because the provision is:

“internally contradictory” in its requirement that platforms block copyright-infringing content from being uploaded while also ensuring that legal content is not removed.

Not unreasonably, in the face of this impossible task, EU Member States have metaphorically thrown up their hands, and simply transposed Article 17 word-for-word into their national laws, without attempting to detail how the new laws will work in practice.

This is just pushing the problems further down the road. At some point, deep-pocketed Internet platforms will start to bring legal challenges to these new laws that they are required to obey, but without being told how. It might be fun to watch some of these transpositions go down in legal flames, but none of this continuing fiasco will help creators, and it will hurt users trying to share and enjoy material online. Key elements of the EU Copyright Directive have been a waste of time, energy and money, right from the start, the result of selfish and short-sighted lobbying.

Featured image by MartinThoma.

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