Following two years of debate, the members of the European Union have finally agreed to changes to copyright laws that aim to update copyright in Europe for the digital age. The previous copyright laws were established in 2001. Consequently, they did not take into account the myriad ways that we can access, publish, and share content online.
The closure of newspapers around the world and the shift from buying to streaming music have increased awareness of the need for copyright laws that protect artists and news publishers for work that is made available online. In particular, sites like YouTube and Facebook have faced criticism for generating revenue from works that have been unlawfully distributed on their platforms.
Final negotiations on the updated laws were slowed somewhat by Germany and France, due to their desire to include provisions in the laws that would give greater freedom to new and smaller companies. The updated copyright rules are representative of the EU’s intent to push digital platforms to accept greater responsibility for the content they host. Therefore, due to the efforts of Germany and France, the finalized laws provide some freedom for smaller companies without the size and financial resources that have been amassed by Silicon Valley giants.
As our world becomes more connected and it becomes easier to access information digitally, copyright standards become more important and complex. Given the efforts required to update copyright laws in the EU, we can be certain that academic organizations, publishers, and technology companies will continue to debate and refine our understanding of what it means to own and share information.
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