Misa-Zim concerned over  tougher EU copyright rules

Content creators in Zimbabwe who share their works online will have to take extra care not to use any copyrighted work in their productions after a European Parliament committee voted in favour of tougher copyright rules on Tuesday, a Press freedom group has warned.

The fresh copyright rules, mooted by the European Commission, are designed to take account of the growing role of online platforms, forcing them to share revenues with publishers and bear liability for copyright infringement on the Internet.

The vote by the committee is likely to be the Parliament’s official stance as it heads into negotiations with EU countries on a common position, unless dissenting lawmakers from Germany and Poland, who have already indicated they will fight the full adoption of this directive, overturn its ratification by the EU Council.

While Internet luminaries and activists and some lawmakers have criticised the EU reforms, copyright holders have applauded them.
Media Institute of Southern Africa Zimbabwe Chapter (Misa-Zimbabwe) opposed the EU proposal and said it was a cause of concern for service providers in the tech industry, content creators and Internet users on a global scale.

“More so when one considers the Internet’s universal nature and the fact that EU’s digital laws also affect Internet users from other parts of the world including Zimbabwe. For example, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), was drafted and implemented to protect the privacy rights of European residents, but its effects have extended well beyond the EU’s geographical borders,” Misa-Zimbabwe said in a statement yesterday.

Misa-Zimbabwe said the EU Copyright Directive will have two major effects on the sharing of media and information on the Internet.

“Firstly, Article 17 of the directive states that service providers such as YouTube, Facebook, Google and Instagram, will now be responsible for any copyrighted media or information that is shared on their platforms.

“Secondly, Article 15 of the EU Copyright Directive will impose a ‘link tax’ to search engine service providers such as Google and news aggregator service providers,” the Press freedom group said, adding a local example of a news aggregator service is the Zimbabwe Situation.

“Any online service providers that share or aggregate news sources will have to negotiate a fee with the publishers and authors of the news articles or stories shared. At the moment, the sharing of just news ‘snippets’ and links to news articles are exempt from paying this ‘link tax.’

“Article 17’s successful implementation will rely on the use of service agreements entered into between online service providers such as Facebook and the copyright holders or license holders of copyrighted work. In terms of such an agreement, Facebook for example, will have to police its platforms to ensure that there is no media or information shared in a manner that violates any copyright.”

In the past, this responsibility to police the Internet for copyright violations lay with the owner of the copyright and any other entities wishing to enforce specific copyrighted works. 
Any copyright holder that wanted to prevent the unauthorised sharing of its works could make a request to have the offending material taken down.

But the EU Copyright Directive means that online service providers have to proactively watch for copyright breaching posts. Any service provider that fails to police its platforms will be held liable for sharing the content.

Misa-Zimbabwe said this is, however, a beneficial arrangement for music record labels, movie studios and other media entities that own and make money from copyrighted works.

“In theory, this means that Zimbabwean copyright holders will be able to enter into agreements with online service providers for the purpose of preventing the unauthorised sharing of their content in the EU,” Misa-Zimbabwe said.


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