Article 17: What These Digital Copyright Laws Mean for Your Company

Article 17

When Article 17 of the EU Copyright Directive became law on April 15th, 2019, it followed some major controversy. The opposition among tech firms was so extreme, that the CEO of YouTube, Susan Wojcicki, backed a petition against it.    

So what’s the big deal with Article 17? If you work in any kind of role related to social media, you definitely need to know about it. Read on to find out more about this contentious piece of legislation and how it could impact your business.  

What Is Article 17?

Article 17 started out in its draft form as Article 13. It puts all European copyright legislation into a single framework. Copyright laws had not been updated since 2001, three years before Facebook launched. Politicians in Europe believed that they needed an overhaul. This was in recognition of the huge changes that had taken place on the internet since that time. 

The Article 17 European Copyright Directive states that content sharing services must identify any copyrighted material on their platform. They then must license that copyrighted material from the license holder. If this doesn’t happen, then the company is held liable. 

The legislation applies to content sharing services which have been available in the EU for more than three years or have an annual turnover of more than €10 million. There are further exemptions for open source software development platforms, non-profit online encyclopedias, communication and cloud storage services, and online marketplaces. 

Why Is Article 17 So Controversial?

Concerns were raised about this legislation from its conception to its approval. While it was clear that copyright laws needed updating to be appropriate for the digital era, many critics opposed it, including some at Google, Reddit, and Wikipedia. 

The European Parliament stated that the purpose of the legislation was to enhance the rights of copyright holders and ensure that fair licensing agreements were made with internet companies. This should prevent the exploitation of creators’ material. 

But critics felt that it would not be possible to preempt users uploading copyrighted material. The only solution would be to buy licenses for anything which users may upload. This would be an impossible task. 

An inevitable result of this would be the use of content filters. Article 17 does not say that these have to be used, but critics felt that this would be the only realistic solution. This led to concerns that this could prevent free expression on the internet. 

Filters would have to be based on algorithms, which sometimes make mistakes. So there would be a risk that valid content could be removed and this would have a negative impact on content creators.

There were also worries that implementing this type of filter would be prohibitively expensive for small companies or start-ups, which would hinder development in the tech world. This would mean that the legislation would unduly benefit the larger tech corporations.  

How Will Article 17 Affect Small Social Networks Outside the EU?

It’s clear that the legislation is complex and has faced major opposition. Just to add to the confusion, it’s likely that different EU countries will interpret and implement the guidance in different ways and it’s also uncertain what direction the UK will take, following Brexit.

If you’re based in America or elsewhere in the world, you may be wondering, will Article 17 affect small social networks outside the EU? The answer is yes! The legislation affects any online content sharing service providers (OCSSPs) outside the EU. Any platform that can be accessed from within the EU will feel the impact. 

Platforms that host audio or video content, which may include copyrighted material, need to ensure compliance with this legislation. Smaller companies (those available for less than three years in the EU or with less than five million monthly users) have longer to comply and to implement systems to manage the necessary monitoring. 

It’s also worth remembering that any American companies are also subject to US law on copyright infringement. This includes the Notice and Takedown process. 

Let’s think about the next steps for your business. How can you ensure that your company remains on the right side of the new rules, without compromising on content quality and competitive advantage? We’ll explore this next.  

Complying With the Article 17 EU Copyright Directive 

The simplest advice for content creators using any platform is to ensure that all their own content is unique. This will avoid any legal difficulties and ensure that they retain integrity. Original content will always deliver quality and value to customers and platform users. 

There are a few other issues to consider you will need to consider. It’s likely that most major platforms will be introducing content filters. This means that these will have to be navigated, in addition to the various algorithms that social media professionals have to work with on a daily basis.

It’s possible that these changes may have an impact on user engagement and how people interact with audio and video content online. Social marketers will need to factor these changes into their long-term content strategies.

Smaller companies may not be able to implement full-scale content filters to monitor copyright compliance. In these cases, automatic content identification technology can be useful. Audio fingerprinting technology can help to identify any copyright infringements. This will help to avoid any legal difficulties. 

A Final Note on Memes 

Rumors circulated for a while that the Article 17 legislation was going to outlaw the use of memes. However, the European Parliament actually tweeted that memes were protected under the original 2001 legislation. These rules permit the use of small samples of copyright material for the purposes of review, criticism, pastiche, and parody. So you can rest assured that memes are safe!   

Protecting Your Content 

Now that you know a bit more about the Article 17 EU Copyright directive, you should be able to consider how it will impact on your business. Most companies that share content online will benefit from using copyright compliance technology solutions, including music recognition.   

ACRCloud offers a wider range of solutions available to help you with copyright compliance. For access to ACRCloud’s advanced technology console, sign up now!  


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