The scope of the EU Digital Copyright Directive approved this week by European Parliament is broad. With most media attention having been devoted to the controversial “link tax” (Article 11) and “meme ban” (Article 13), other measures in the Directive which strengthen the position of authors and performers should not be forgotten. This post looks ‘behind the headlines’ to explain these other measures.

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On 26 March 2019, the European Parliament approved the EU Copyright Directive.

What happens next?

Member states will have two years to implement the directive at a national level once adopted.

The news will not please the large online content aggregators which have been extensively lobbying against the implementation of the Copyright Directive. The controversial Article 13 (the so-called “Meme Ban”) has been one of the main reasons for the aggregators’ objections because it is argued that Article 13 encourages censorship and impedes internet freedom.

For an overview of the also controversial so called ‘Link Tax’ (Article 11) see our prior blog post.


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On 26 March 2019, the European Parliament approved the EU Copyright Directive.

Article 11 of the revised EU Copyright directive prohibits online content providers from linking to news outlets/publications without the prior authority of the publisher – the so called “Link Tax”. This means that for an online content provider to be able to link to a news article on their site, it will need a licence from the publisher. It may also need to pay for the right to use the article (unless the publisher waives this right).

What is the aim behind Article 11?

Article 11 improves the bargaining position for publishers. Currently, online content providers are permitted to freely link to news articles on their websites without the publisher’s prior consent and without providing remuneration to the publisher for use of its publication. Article 11 seeks to level the playing field between publishers and online content providers. Publishers will become entitled to negotiate fair licensing agreements and remuneration for use of their works online.


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on 26 March 2019 the European Parliament approved the draft EU Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive. The copyright reforms have sparked large scale controversy amongst the tech giant community, condemning the reforms as impractical and burdensome. Whereas many (not all) authors and members of the performing artist industry have welcomed such proposals, favouring fairer protection and remuneration for their works.

What is the purpose of the Directive?

Digital technology has changed the way content is reproduced and accessed. Content is now largely accessed via online platforms such as Google, YouTube or Facebook. The aim of the Copyright Directive is to modernise the current copyright rules in line with an ever growing digital world where content is predominately accessed online.


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On 14 September 2017 Ofcom, the UK communications industry regulator, adopted new statutory guidelines (Penalty Guidelines) on how it would assess and determine the penalties (fines) payable by regulated communications companies who breach their obligations under the Communications Act 2003 (Act). The revised guidelines follow Ofcom’s June 2017 adoption of new guidelines for enforcement in regulatory investigations (Enforcement Guidelines) and procedures for investigating breaches of competition related conditions in Broadcasting Act licences (Broadcasting Investigation Procedures).

Although on their face the changes to the guidelines seem relatively minor, when considered against the background of (i) Ofcom’s increasingly pro-active enforcement policy; and (ii) the increased difficulty of challenging Ofcom’s decisions, following the 20 July 2017 change in the standard of review of decisions on appeal from an ‘on the merits‘ review to ‘judicial review principles‘, we expect the changes to make it easier for Ofcom to take action against regulated communications companies and more difficult for those companies to defend and appeal Ofcom’s decisions. As a net result, regulated communications companies need to take Ofcom enforcement action more seriously. Those companies are now financially incentivised to engage early with Ofcom and consider early settlement to secure a settlement discount, especially as they will find it more difficult to challenge Ofcom’s decisions on appeal.
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This week heralded further progress for the European Digital Single Market strategy, with the online content portability regulation mentioned previously on this blog coming into force on 20 July 2017, following publication of this regulation in the EU Official Journal on 30 June 2017. The regulation itself sets out a number of key dates during next year and onwards for content providers and consumers alike to watch for.
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In a judgment delivered on 14 June 2017, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) decided that making available a online sharing platform falls within the concept of “communication to the public” for the purposes of copyright law, and can therefore amount to infringement of copyright in protected works which are shared via that platform. This decision bolsters the ability of copyright owners to pursue the operators of such platforms, and to obtain relief against intermediaries (in particular ISPs) forcing them to block their users from accessing such platforms.

The immediate practical consequence of the CJEU’s decision is that the national courts are entitled to grant blocking injunctions against ISPs in order to block users from accessing TPB. This is plainly a positive outcome from the point of view of copyright holders, giving them stronger rights to restrict unauthorised distribution of their protected works. The generally pro-rightsholder approach of the CJEU in this case mirrors the recent efforts of the English courts to modernise its remedies in order to secure adequate protection against infringing activities, as reported in a previous blog post.


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On June 8, 2017, The European Council adopted the Regulation on cross-border portability of online content services. The regulation will allow consumers who have paid for online content services in their home country to access those services when visiting another country within the EU. Alongside the ‘Roam like at home’ rules which came into force yesterday, the regulation forms part of the European Digital Single market strategy. The regulation will come into effect in the first quarter of 2018.
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