European copyright legislation

News and social platform publishers are subject to the 'Copyright Directive in the Digital Single Market' (European Copyright Act). Read what it means here.

The aim of the law is to align European copyright law with the development of digital technologies. And to better protect and fairly pay copyright holders such as photographers, journalists, artists and writers.

Reducing differences between national copyright regimes will prevent the fragmentation of the single market within the EU. It also aims to enable wider online access for users across the EU.

Not for small platforms

The law covers providers who allow 'large quantities' or 'significant amounts' of works to be shared via their platform. AND exploit these works 'for profit', such as advertisements. The strict upload measures do not apply to platforms with less than 5 million visitors per month, less than 10 million euro turnover per year and that are younger than 3 years old.

Small businesses do not have to use or develop a filter. But they must of course comply with copyright law.

Outcry over European Copyright Act

Articles 15 and 17 of the European Copyright Act caused a stir. Critics said the rules would hamper the free sharing of content on the internet, thus affecting freedom of expression. But the articles were amended and approved by the European Parliament after consultations with interest groups.

Article 15, the 'link tax'

This article allows press publishers to allow or prohibit reproduction and republication of their digital news stories. It opens the possibility for news sites and press publishers to charge a fee for the use of their articles or photos on platforms such as Google News and Facebook.

These rights do not apply to hyperlinks consisting of single words referring to the source.

Article 17: the 'upload filter'

This article should make it more difficult to share copyrighted videos or music. This means that social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will have to check all photos and videos more strictly beforehand to see if there is anything in a video that infringes copyright. An upload filter, in other words.

Platforms must have licences to post copyrighted work or make every effort not to post such material. If they do not make enough effort, they can be held liable by copyright holders. They also have to set up complaint and objection procedures for aggrieved parties.

Critics think this will lead to censorship on the internet. Simply because, for security reasons, much content will be refused or filtered out. This is to avoid high costs for extensive monitoring of content and development of expensive monitoring software.

Making and posting a parody or caricature derived from original content will still be allowed. This also applies to gifs and memes. The question is whether the software filters recognise this exception.

Control often took place after the fact. For example, videos containing music that infringes copyright are only taken offline after publication and at the request of copyright holders.

Education, libraries and museums

For educational institutions, the new copyright law is somewhat more lenient. If you share copyrighted work in the classroom or in a private educational network to which only students and teachers have access, no prior permission is required. Libraries and museums can digitise all work on paper and make it available online. This does not require prior permission from the rights holders.

Works of art

A work of art that is no longer covered by copyright, for example an old painting, belongs to the public domain. Everyone should be free to make, use and share copies of that work. This was not always possible; some EU member states prohibited it.

The new rules also ensure that art that falls into the public domain cannot be copyrighted. Users can distribute copies of public-interest artworks online with legal certainty. For example, you can copy, use and share pictures of paintings, sculptures and public domain artworks if they can be found online. Also for commercial purposes.