Article 13: an introduction

By Masha van Ass, Marijn Lenssen en Manon van Oort on 03-04-2019

Article 13 is the much-discussed EU law proposal that has been on the minds of the creative industry for months. But what exactly does the article entail? What does the EU want to achieve with the introduction of the new regulation? And even more importantly, what will the concrete consequences be for the music industry?

At the time of writing, Article 13 has just been approved in the European Parliament and has become an official law (officially called article 17). The introduction of Article 13 does not immediately lead to changes, since it is a so-called "Directive". This means that all EU member states must introduce regulations themselves in order to meet EU requirements. And this will, according to many, have major consequences for copyright legislation.

The voting in the EU parliament for article 13

Platforms accountable

The focus of article 13 is on better protection of copyright on the internet. Under the current rules, online platforms like YouTube and Facebook are not responsible for copyright infringement. For example, a website like YouTube only has to remove copyrighted content after they receive complaints from copyright owners. The EU wants to change this. With the new regulations, platforms must be held accountable for copyright infringement. This means that the sites must take this content offline or pay a possible fine for placing it. This should lead to more rights and income for the original creators of the content that is shared online. However, the opponents of article 13 are afraid that this will lead to a censored internet with platforms that use an automatic filtering system that can check the content that violates copyright.

Impact on the music industry

So what exactly does Article 13 mean for the music industry and what are the consequences for artists? The biggest change lies with platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The more visitors use these websites, the more income they earn from advertisements. The users of these platforms post the content themselves, which means that websites such as Facebook do not have to put any effort, time and money into creating content for their platforms. However, often this content contains work from someone else. For example, a video often contains background music from an artist. And the advertising revenue? That continues to go towards the platforms.

Article 13 explained by

This is exactly what the EU wants to change with Article 13. Artists are currently responsible to file a complaint for each copyright infringement, but Article 13 relocates that responsibility to the platforms. Thanks to the new law, the rightful owners will continuously receive money for whenever their work is incorporated in content on these platforms (with the exception of satire / parodies). In fact, the content may not even be used / distributed without their permission. If this does happen, the platforms that showcases the content will be fined. In short: with the introduction of Article 13, rightful owners of content are finally rewarded for the use of their work.

Positive or negative?

The amendment sounds like a positive improvement for musicians, publishers, film producers and other creators. However, implementing this law is difficult. The question on everyone's mind right now is, how are online platforms going to check all posted content? The most common solution is a so-called upload filter. An upload filter will recognise when someone uploads content that someone else has the copyright to. This would mean that all material posted must be completely free of copyright infringement. Large internet companies such as Google have already indicated that this is practically impossible.

EuThe EU parliament in Brussels

This leads to the second disadvantage of Article 13. Opponents of the legislation are afraid that the boundaries of what can and cannot be done will become unclear. As mentioned earlier, there are various exceptions and the question is whether a filter will recognise these exceptions. According to critics of Article 13, the "free internet" would disappear.

It is therefore clear that the introduction of the legislation will change the internet. However, how this will happen and what the exact consequences will be remain unclear. Proponents will say that creators will finally be rewarded for their hard work, while opponents will say that the end of a free internet is getting closer. Ultimately, only time will tell whether Article 13 will bring justice and happiness to those who deserve it most; the creators.

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