EU lawmakers back controversial copyright reforms

MEPs have today backed controversial copyright reforms — bringing them a step closer to becoming law.

They will now go before EU countries and civil servants who will attempt to hammer out their differences over the proposals.

The debate on copyright reform has focussed on two contentious areas.

What's controversial?

First, the part of the legislation that could force tech giants like Google to pay media companies when linking to their articles.

Second, the segment that would require online platforms like YouTube to install upload filters that check all new content for copyright infringement.

Critics say the reforms pose a threat to the free flow of information online.

They claim automated filtering systems would be unaccountable and potentially overzealous over what constitutes copyright infringement.

Some also fear it could spell the end of internet memes, which are parodies that sometimes use copyrighted material.

What has the reaction been?

European Digital Rights says the law would regulate all internet companies in Europe as if they were Google or Facebook. This, said the association, would mean only internet giants like these could survive.

Some musicians and artists — including Sir Paul McCartney — have supported the reforms saying they would help them earn a living. But others, like rapper Wyclef Jean, oppose them saying the internet should remain unhindered.

Critics of what has been dubbed the “link tax” — which would see internet giants having to pay for displaying snippets of other websites’ content — say it has been in force in Germany for five years and not generated any extra income for authors.

The legislation is expected to be back in front of MEPs early next year for a final vote, after the European Council and the EU Commission have had their say on the reforms.

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