EU rejects controversial copyright law

Supporters say it will benefit creators of content, but it could also limit internet freedom and stifle creativity

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EU lawmakers have voted against controversial new legislation aimed at tightening copyright rules on the internet and making sure tech giants pay their fair share of royalties for content.

The music industry, including a host of famous names such as Paul McCartney, Annie Lennox and David Guetta, had come out in support of the law which would have put a greater responsibility on individual websites to check for copyright infringements.

The proposals sparked a bitter battle between internet giants, internet freedom groups and owners and creators of content, prompting a ferocious lobbying campaign from both sides ahead of the vote.

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Critics claim that it could have a massive impact on how people use the internet, putting paid to memes and remixes, while stoking concerns it would require websites to scan all content being uploaded, automatically blocking anything that might infringe copyright.

The Daily Telegraph reports that campaigners at Copyright 4 Creativity said the proposals risk censoring free speech because it is likely that technology giants, afraid of hefty fines, will automatically remove content they deem a risk, ridding social media of satire, commentary and inevitably would “destroy the internet as we know it”.

A group of 70 influential technology leaders, including Vint Cerf and World Wide Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, signed a letter describing the law as an “imminent threat to the future” of the internet.

They were joined by Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales who described it as “disastrous”, with editors at the encyclopaedia site warning that “Wikipedia itself would be at risk of closing” arguing that “if the proposal is approved, it may be impossible to share a newspaper article on social networks or find it on a search engine.”

“For you and me, it could have resulted in text, music and videos posted to blogs, social networks and comment sections being yanked from the net at point of upload - somewhat like YouTube's controversial Content ID system on steroids”, says BBC music reporter Mark Savage.

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In the end MEPs narrowly voted to reject the law in its current form, deciding to return to the issue in September.

The Guardian says it means the likes of Google, YouTube and Facebook “could escape having to make billions in payouts to press publishers, record labels and artists”.

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