EU approves controversial copyright reforms opposed by Google, Facebook

The European Parliament on Tuesday approved a controversial copyright law that will force online platforms such as Google and Facebook to filter out content that could be considered a copyright infringement. 

European Union lawmakers backed the new law 348-274, capping off three years of heated debate over how the EU should modernize its copyright rules. 


Tech companies and digital rights activists campaigned aggressively against the copyright reforms, claiming they could infringe on freedom of speech online and fundamentally alter how Google and Facebook in particular do business in the EU. Google in January said it might pull its Google News service from the EU entirely if the law is enacted.

The new law will force all but the smallest online platforms to install content filters to weed out potentially copyrighted content, including memes and gifs. Under the new rules, anyone sharing copyrighted content must obtain explicit permission from the content's creator.

The entertainment industry in the EU has broadly backed the reforms, saying they will allow entertainers and creators to be fairly compensated for their work.

The new law will also allow media publishers to demand compensation when platforms post snippets of their news articles. 

“Despite the warnings and concerns of academics, privacy bodies, U.N. representatives and hundreds of thousands of consumers across Europe, the European Parliament has given its go-ahead to a very unbalanced copyright law,” Monique Goyens, director general of the European Consumer Organization, said, according to Fortune. “Consumers will have to bear the consequences of this decision. Their concerns had been voiced loud and clearly but MEPs chose to ignore them.”

The text of the law still has to be approved by the Council of the European Union, with a vote expected for April 9.

"The Copyright Directive is improved but will still lead to legal uncertainty and will hurt Europe’s creative and digital economies," a Google spokesperson said. "The details matter, and we look forward to working with policy makers, publishers, creators and rights holders as EU member states move to implement these new rules."