After years of debate and negotiations, on April 15th 2019, the European Council — the political body composed of government ministers from each of the 28 European Union member states — voted to adopt into EU law the copyright directive as passed by the European Parliament on March 26, 2019, with 348 votes in favor and 274 against.
Now the copyright directive passed by the European Council is a part of the European law. The directive is more like a binding order obligating all 28 members of the councils to bring similar laws into their national law within two years as decided by the council.
The changes have proved controversial, with critics being opposed to two specific parts of the law; one is Article 11 and the other is Article 13. These two are a part of a wider set of changes passed into the European Law.
The directive on copyright requires the likes of Twitter, Dailymotion, Soundcloud, YouTube, Facebook, and similar to take more responsibility for the content shared on their platform which might infringe a copyrighted material and take decisive measures to control it.
Article 13 has now become the most controversial segment of the directive and experts claim it will have a detrimental impact on online creators.
How Article 13 may Affect the Internet
Article 13 directs online platforms to remove copyright content from their websites. The directive would make online platforms, aggregators, social media websites and other websites liable for the potential infringement of the copyright content shared by them or the users on their platform/website.
Currently, platforms like YouTube aren’t responsible for copyright content being published on their platform by the users, although they are required to remove the content as and when requested by the copyright holder. But all that will change once the new directive is forced into action.
As mentioned in the article, copyright holders and services that share the content online must cooperate with each other in good faith in order to ensure that protected copyright work or subject matter are not available on their platform. In the crux of things, this article is all about how it holds the platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. responsible for taking down the copyright content being published on their platform.
Many experts are raising their concerns over the impact it will have on internet users, especially users from the European Union.
Back in 2018, when the EU implemented the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), some of the websites simply started to block users from the EU. Rather than taking a risk of not complying to the GDPR norms, they took the easy way around. Experts believe a similar practice might follow once the new copyright directive comes into play.
Some platforms may choose to apply certain rules for EU users and a different set of rules for the rest of the world. If these rules are implemented on the entire website, this will affect every user and can potentially impact the freedom of internet users from around the world.
Online platforms, aggregators, websites along with digital activists are actively raising their voice against the directive.
Silicon Valley lobbying group (CCIA), whose members include Facebook, Google, eBay, Amazon, and Netflix has been a vocal critic of Article 13.Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales and Tim Berners-Lee, signed an open letter arguing against the directive despite the fact that the directive has explicitly excluded Wikipedia and GitHub from these rules. Still, both companies maintain their opposition for this directive. YouTube by far has been the most vocal critic of the directive.
Experts believe that it is difficult to lay the final judgment on the effects of the new directive from the European Council until the member nations put this law into their national laws, but the debate goes on.
How a VPN can Help Avoid this EU Directive
It is believed that this new directive could potentially decline online surfing and streaming freedom for a lot of users. At the same time, many digital experts believe that VPN is a viable solution in case things go sore for internet users.
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) uses encrypted communication between the user’s computer and online servers to let you access the web safely and privately.
VPN encrypts your data even before your internet service provider sees it. That encrypted data then goes to the VPN server where it’s decrypted. The VPN server then processes your request and send the data to your online destination.
What makes VPNs a logical and viable solution if and when the new directive becomes a nightmare is that, when using a VPN, the platforms you access online will see the data coming from the VPN server and its geolocation, not from your computer and your geolocation. This means VPNs allow users to change their visible location online.
If the directive causes websites to block the users from the European Union from visiting their website or from accessing some contents, EU users can use a VPN to mask their real location, thereby accessing the desired site/content through a virtual location provided by the VPN. Asides protecting online privacy and data, this ability to bypass geo-restrictions is one of the many uses and benefits of a VPN that has made the industry continue to skyrocket over the years.
As the European Union’s GDPR rules came into action last year many websites worldwide were forced to block connections from European Union countries. During the same period of time, a huge increase in VPN usage was observed by various VPN service providers. A similar trend is expected when the article 13 directive has been fully put into action.