On Monday, the European Council of the European Union, or EU, approved new copyright rules. They aim to give more protection to artists and news organizations. Critics say the new rules will limit freedom of speech and online creativity and punish smaller web companies.

Famous artists, performers and tech experts have spoken out both against and in support of the EU directive. The 28 EU members are required to establish the law in their countries. The law will have an influence on everyone, however, as the internet crosses many international borders.

There has been much debate on one part of the directive that affects internet platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The directive asks online platforms to require their users to get permission to upload any material from the creator of such materials. It says the platforms will be responsible for making sure that their users obey the law. Some think that meeting these rules will reduce freedom of expression on the internet and could result in censorship.

Another part of the law requires search engines (like Yahoo! or Google News) and social media sites to pay for linking to or showing a few sentences from news articles. Paying for each of those links will increase costs for the companies.

Some sites would be forced to get a written agreement to use music or videos. If not, sites would have to make sure they do not include unlawful copyrighted material. Computers will have to look for such material and remove it, since it would be impossible for humans to check the large number of uploads to the internet.

Critics say the EU directive could act as censorship and change internet culture. That is because the automatic filters may delete some material that should be permitted online. YouTube said that to avoid trouble in some cases, it would have to block videos if they are unsure about the copyright.

Some artists think the directive will help them. The music industry and other groups that collect fees say the change will help. It will require big tech companies such as Apple, Facebook and Google to pay artists, writers and creators more for their work. Google estimates it has paid out more than $3 billion to rights holders through its Content ID system, which was created in 2007.

Some high-profile artists have supported the change. Former Beatles member Paul McCartney wrote an open letter to EU lawmakers asking them to approve the new rules.

Others are afraid they will not earn much more money and that their creativity will be silenced.

The EU’s member countries have two years to follow the directive by changing their own national laws. Six countries — Italy, Sweden, Poland, Finland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg — voted against it, so enforcement is likely to be uneven. There will probably be many arguments in court before the laws have all been changed.

 

Exercise 1

Vocabulary

Read the following vocabulary with your teacher.

copyright – n. the legal right to be the only one to reproduce, publish, and sell a book, musical recording, or film for a certain period of time

censorship - n. the practice of removing things that are considered to be offensive, immoral, or harmful to society from books, movies, letters, and such

filter - n. software that prevents someone from looking at or receiving particular kinds of material through the Internet

 

Exercise 2

Questions

Answer these questions about the article.

1. What is the aim of the new copyright rules?

2. How will the new rules affect online platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter?

3. How did Paul McCartney react to the proposed new rules?

4. Which countries have voted against the laws?

 

Exercise 3

Debate

Please give your opinion on the following statement and give your reasons behind it.

  • The internet and all its contents should be free to everyone.

 

Exercise 4 

Discussion

Have a discussion on following questions.

1. What do you think of the new EU copyright rules?

2. What do you know about copyrights?

3. How would you react if someone stole your work and published it online?

4. Do you think the new laws will limit free speech?

 

Source

This lesson is based on a news article originally published by VOA.