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European Parliament votes in favour of new copyright laws - what it means for your online activities

Photo: AP

The European Parliament has voted in favour of new copyright rules that could shake up the way internet companies use media, books, music and other content posted online.

MEPs in Strasbourg voted by 438 to 226 to back a report aimed at protecting the rights of the authors or creators of books, films and computer software.

German lawmaker Axel Voss, who guided the report through the assembly, said the vote “is a good sign for the creative industries in Europe”.

The Copyright Directive includes two parts, Article 11 and Article 13, that will force online platforms to pay original copyright holders, such as songwriters and publishers, for their work.

  • What is the new copyright law proposal about?
Members of the European Parliament voted for new copyright rules on Wednesday. Credit: PA

Article 11, dubbed the “link tax”, means publishers are entitled to fairer remuneration, preventing news aggregators such as Google News from providing links to their work free of charge.

Article 13 puts more pressure on platforms where users share content, such as Facebook and Twitter, to enforce copyright laws.

  • What kind of content will the new copyright law affect?
There will be more pressure for platforms to enforce copyright laws. Credit: AP

The Copyright Directive can affect anything from the music in the background of a video, to memes, which regularly use stills or quotes from popular culture including movies and TV shows.

In its widest form, it requires online platforms to employ a way to scan all content before it is published.

  • Who supports for the move?
Sir Paul McCartney is in favour of the motion, saying we need Credit: AP

Musician Sir Paul McCartney has been a vocal supporter of the legislation.

In an open letter, he said that “we need an internet that is fair and sustainable for all”.

“Some user upload content platforms refuse to compensate artists and all music creators fairly for their work while they exploit it for their own profit.”

Reacting to the decision, Mr Voss said “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 European Magazine Media Association praised the move as “a great day for the independent press and for democracy,” saying it would modernise the rules without stifling online competition.

  • Who is against the move?
Tim Berners-Lee has opposed the move. Credit: AP

World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee and Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales have criticised the measures, saying it will impact most on ordinary users of the internet.

The pair expressed concern in a letter signed by 68 other technology leaders, stating that Article 13 would require internet sites to “embed an automated infrastructure for monitoring and censorship deep into their networks”.

“For the sake of the internet’s future, we urge you to vote for the deletion of this proposal,” the group said.

The Computer and Communications Industry Association has said Wednesday's decision will “undermine free expression online and access to information”.