The EU has made its decision on the controversial Article 13. In a plenary vote, MEPs passed the proposal to remove Article 13 from its Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on Copyright in the Digital Single Market.

This will be a relief for campaigners who’ve rallied against the proposal. In the lead up to the initial vote on the issue, critics argued it would ‘ruin’ the internet.

What is the EU Article 13 legislation?

You can read a full primer on Article 13 here. However, we shall explain the basics below.

Article 13 is, as you might have guessed, the 13th article in the EU’s Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on Copyright in the Digital Single Market.

Essentially, this is a bundle of new copyright laws designed to be fit for the digital age.

Article 13 was just one of a series of proposals. It puts the onus on service providers to remove any copyrighted material being shared online. As it stands, it is currently the responsibility of the individual uploading the content to ensure it isn’t breaching copyright law.

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Article 13 would force sites and online platforms to use automatic tracking technology to detect when users uploaded content to make sure they weren’t sharing copyrighted material.

This would require websites to use algorithms to detect copyrighted content. Removing the human element, protesters claim, will lead to services taking down content incorrectly. There are fears that there’d be no legal recourse to correct these mistakes.

Criticism of the legislation suggests that this would put a burden on smaller websites. Big sites such as Facebook and YouTube already have systems in place that do something similar. However, smaller websites may not have the resources available to do this.

In addition, campaigners argue that the legislation is poorly written and doesn’t provide enough guidelines on remixed or edited content. It could also spell disaster for services such as Wikipedia and GitHub, which allow users to share information and code. It also doesn’t describe which ‘service providers’ will need to use this technology.

Who was critical of Article 13?

Since it was first shared, Article 13 has been the subject of much debate across the internet.

The rules have attracted fierce criticism from some of the biggest names on the internet. An open-letter from internet innovators and tech heavyweights including Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, and Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia said:

“By requiring Internet platforms to perform automatic filtering all of the content that their users upload, Article 13 takes an unprecedented step towards the transformation of the internet from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users.”

Who was in favour of Article 13?

However, while criticism of Article 13 has been fierce among internet denizens, creative industries are embracing it. The ruling would, if nothing else, help prevent people from illegally sharing their work.

Sir Paul McCartney shared his support for the proposal. He claims the directive “would address the value gap and help assure a sustainable future for the music ecosystem and its creators.”

Lobbying group Impala, which represents independent music labels, was critical of ‘big tech’ for trying to block Article 13. It told Reuters:

“There is a cynical campaign from tech companies flooding the inboxes of lawmakers with scaremongering that the copyright directive would be the end of the internet.

“Please note that this is the 20th anniversary of their first claim that copyright provisions would break the internet. This has never happened.”

Writing in Music Business Worldwide, chairman of the British Association of Composers, Songwriters and Authors Crispin Hunt, said:

“Critics… write or say stuff like: ‘Memes, news, Wikipedia, art, privacy, and the creative side of fandom are all at risk of being destroyed or kneecapped’.

“But of course, this is sheer nonsense. Article 13’s critics are relying wholly on an ability to weave a narrative that has no relationship to fact.”

The outcome of the EU Article 13 vote

Ultimately, it seems the internet pioneers won the day.

Overall, 278 MEPs voted in favour of Article 13, and 318 voted against it. There were 31 abstentions.

Now it’ll be up to the EU parliament to find a way of revising the ruling to make it work for the creative industries. Hopefully, it can find a way of doing so that both parties can agree on.