European Parliament backs copyright changes

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The musician Wyclef Jean is among those who have opposed the copyright laws

Controversial new copyright laws have been approved by members of the European Parliament.

The legislation had been changed since July when the first version of the copyright directive was voted down. Critics say it remains problematic.

Many musicians and creators claim the reforms are necessary to fairly compensate artists.

But opponents fear that the plans could destroy user-generated content, memes and parodies.

Leaders of the EU’s member states still need to sign off on the rule changes before the individual countries have to draft local laws to put them into effect.

The vote in Strasbourg was 438 in favour of the measures, 226 against and 39 abstentions.

‘Link tax’

MEPs voted on a series of changes to the original directive, the most controversial parts are known as Article 13 and Article 11.

Article 13 puts the onus on web giants to take measures to ensure that agreements with rights holders for the use of their work are working.

Critics say that would require all internet platforms to filter content put online by users, which many believe would be an excessive restriction on free speech.

Article 11 is also controversial because it forces online platforms to pay news organisations before linking to their stories, something critics refer to a “link tax”.

MEPs settled for a version of the directive that compromised on some of the methods news organisations will be able to use to charge web companies for links to content.

It also watered down a proposal for upload filters to automatically delete content that violates copyright.

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The copyright directive has been subject to intense lobbying since it was rejected by MEPs in July

EU commissioners Andrus Ansip and Mariya Gabriel, who proposed the reform, said it was “an essential step to achieving our common objective of modernising the copyright rules in the European Union”.

Earlier this week, YouTube weighed in on the debate. Its chief business officer Robert Kyncl said that the one of the most controversial elements of the law – Article 13 – risked “discouraging or even prohibiting platforms from hosting user-generated content”.

Musician Wyclef Jean also spoke out against the directive, appealing to MEPs to “embrace and improve the internet, rather than attempt to block and hinder it”.

But many other musicians, including Sir Paul McCartney, had expressed their support for the changes.

Julia Reda, an MEP who has fought the changes, tweeted her disappointment that the two most controversial parts of the directive had been approved by fellow parliamentarians.