UK Says It Won't Implement The EU Copyright Directive, Which Wouldn't Have Passed Without Its Support During A Crucial Vote

from the cunning-plan-or-just-can't-be-bothered? dept

As Techdirt has reported, the EU member states are starting to transpose the EU Copyright Directive into their national laws, and the results are as bad as we feared. France wants to implement the Article 17 upload filters without user protections, while Germany plans to place ludicrous restrictions on the use of press materials as part of its implementation of Article 15. What’s particularly frustrating about the whole sorry EU Copyright Directive saga is that the law was very close to being thrown out last April. That was when the final vote by the EU Council (made up of representatives of the EU member states) took place. As Mike wrote at the time, because Sweden changed its original position, and voted against the Directive, it would only have required either Germany or the UK to do the same, and the legislation would have been dropped.

An interesting wrinkle to the story is that Boris Johnson, then still jockeying for leadership of the UK Conservative party, tweeted that the EU Copyright Directive would be “terrible for the Internet“, and that the UK “should not apply it.” That was easy to say when he had neither power nor responsibility. But now that Johnson has become UK prime minister, and enjoys a massive majority in the House of Commons, which effectively means he can do whatever he wants, will he take the same position? Rather amazingly, it seems he will.

A written question was submitted to the UK government: “To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what plans the Government has to bring forward legislative proposals to implement the EU Copyright Directive in UK law.” To which the UK government replied:

The deadline for implementing the EU Copyright Directive is 7 June 2021. The United Kingdom will leave the European Union on 31 January 2020 and the Implementation Period will end on 31 December 2020. The Government has committed not to extend the Implementation Period. Therefore, the United Kingdom will not be required to implement the Directive, and the Government has no plans to do so. Any future changes to the UK copyright framework will be considered as part of the usual domestic policy process.

That is, after providing one of the crucial votes of support that ensured the EU Copyright Directive would become law, the UK is not now going to implement it. A cynic might think that the UK has done this to gain an advantage over the rest of the EU as member states grapple with the serious harm the Copyright Directive will inflict on the region’s Internet users and startups. In truth, it is probably more a reflection of the fact that the UK government will be so busy passing legislation to cope with the aftershocks of Brexit, it won’t have time to deal with minor issues like copyright.

And for those who will be celebrating this news as a great win, it’s worth noting the careful phrasing of the reply: “Any future changes to the UK copyright framework will be considered as part of the usual domestic policy process”. Although the UK government won’t implement an EU law — not least for dogmatic reasons — it hasn’t ruled out bringing in its own 100% true-Brit law that does much the same. It’s unlikely that the well-connected UK copyright industry is going sit quietly and watch EU rivals gain special privileges online without demanding the same. Expect lots of whining and cries of pain from the recording industry and publishers until the UK government eventually gets around to passing national legislation that is as bad — or even worse — than the EU’s.

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Comments on “UK Says It Won't Implement The EU Copyright Directive, Which Wouldn't Have Passed Without Its Support During A Crucial Vote”

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bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Well, the deadline for implementation (7 June 2021) is well after the time when the UK will have (in theory) left the EU (31 January 2020), so I don’t think the UK is technically breaking any regulations. Once the UK has left, it doesn’t have to abide by any of the EU’s laws or regulations, so by the time the deadline is up and any EU nation-state that has not yet implemented laws compliant with the new rules could be held liable for violating regulations, the UK will be outside of their jurisdiction, making the issue moot.

Actually, since the UK will (theoretically) leave in a couple of weeks, and many current member nations have yet to implement their own versions of the new rules, nor are they likely to do so before Brexit is complete, and the deadline for implementation isn’t for another year and a half, it’d be kind of weird to say that the UK is breaking regulations at this point in time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Thing is, if they want to continue doing business with and for the EU, the UK will have to suck it up somewhere. They aren’t going to eat the cake and have it too. So there will be trade agreements specifying things like copyright stuff (which, you know, the UK is going to do on their own anyway, because those are the sorts of stupid laws governments like, and which the UK historically has loved), or jolly ol’ England will lose status somewhere, cutting into all the cash it makes off the EU.

The whole, "Britain is / is not in the EU" is barely relevant with respect to laws like this.

Anonymous Coward says:

Each european country will have its own version of the law,
so what will happen is websites will just apply the most restrictive rules
,the german and french rules ,in order to avoid getting sued by copyright trolls, or german publishers .
will this new law help publishers,
google news may shut down in the eu,
websites may simply stop linking to eu newspapers,
so whether it helps publishers is yet to be seen.
the uk will be outside the eu,websites might simply move to the uk,
in order to have legal protection from these new laws.
I would hope the uk government would wait and see the impact of these laws
before passing any new laws around copyright.

Anonymous Coward says:

Once copyright filters are implemented by a service provider in one country, the usual suspect will expect a filter implemented by any service provider to apply to all user content uploaded anywhere in the world. They will use threats of lawsuits to force that outcome, so anybody who thinks the damage will be limited to Europe is being overly optimistic.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

In all fairness, the EU has no jurisdiction here. I know we’ll also be harmed by the new laws, but legally speaking, it can only limit content meant to be viewable in the EU, targeting the EU, content featured on sites based in the EU or with a physical presence there, or content uploaded by EU citizens or EU-based organizations/businesses/corporations.

Now, this will still have a ton of negative impact outside the EU, but not that much. Techdirt should be fine, and YouTube is already in compliance with the law as far as I can tell. Google News can just do the same thing as it did in Spain. With Twitter, well, I’m pretty sure that the limited character space limits the impact of the “snippet tax” and, to a lesser extent, the upload filter requirement.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

ContentID was written to meet a US legal requirement, yet it filters YouTube for the whole world. Expect the same for any filter written to meet European standards, as the MAFIAA is quite likely to use failure to use such filters everywhere as an excuse to bring a lawsuit against a site in other countries, calling not using the filters as aiding copyright infringement.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Not true, otherwise Netflix only would have to abide by US law wherever they streamed video. Yet, they don’t, they abide by the censorship and licencing requirements of the country to which they are streaming. Also, considering that Google has on autonomous offices data centres all around the world, even if that was true there would be nothing stopping them moving non-US content outside of US jurisdiction.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"Actually, ContentID wasn’t designed with any law in mind. It was just to get people like the MPAA to shut up."

In other words, it was designed with US law in mind given that the MPAA were attempting to make the legal argument that YouTube were culpable because they didn’t do pro-active takedowns. Evenm if that wasn’t exactly what the law said at the time, you can bet your ass under the climate at the time that they would eventually have had either a legal precedent to make them liable for anything uploaded by a third party or a new law to force them to implement something like ContentID. Which would have had a far worse impact than the current voluntary system.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

The law explicitly says otherwise, though. Unless you’re arguing that there would be lobbying efforts to change the law into something that would result in filters like ContentID. As far as what US copyright law actually does, ContentID had no resemblance to it. It exists completely separate from US law.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

"It exists completely separate from US law."

No, it exists as a way to avoid being attacked under US law, as even while complying with the law without it they were still spending millions of dollars defending themselves against lawsuits.

You’re right that there’s nothing in the law that requires ContentID, but you’re missing the reality of the situation if you pretend that the law had nothing to do with it.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Sabotage

The elitist delay where the UK triggered article 50 before they decided who was really in charge of the country, then spent most of the built-in 2 year negotiation period on Tory in-fighting as they tried to decide what people actually voted for. Then, demanded extension after extension until they knew what they wanted to ask for and who was going to be asking?

Yeah, totally the EU’s fault /s

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Sabotage

Uhhhh, last I checked, it was the UK that kept separating things. The EU had already worked out a deal with a UK representative for Brexit. It just kept getting rejected in the British Parliament, as did the idea of a “no deal” Brexit, so the UK kept asking for delays so they could work something out. The EU was unwilling to negotiate the terms of the deal further, but it wasn’t their fault that the UK wouldn’t accept the deal their representative worked out with the EU, or that the UK invoked Article 50 before it was ready to leave. The negotiations were complete a long time ago. The EU hasn’t changed its mind on any of the terms of the deal.

I have no idea what “delaying and foot-dragging” you think the EU was doing. It looks to me like it was entirely on the UK.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Sabotage

"The EU was unwilling to negotiate the terms of the deal further"

Largely because:

a) The Tories kept trying to push individual deals with EU members instead of the EU as a whole,

b) They insisted on trying to negotiate things that they were told were non-negotiable from the outset, such as freedom of movement and the Good Friday agreement, and most importantly:

c) They never went to the table with a solid set of demands they were negotiating in the first place

Of course you’re going to get tired of trying to "negotiate" when the other party can never come up with a sensible set of demands.

This comment has been deemed funny by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Sabotage

1) We want to handle all of the EU’s money
2) We will not help with anything for which we have common cause with our other European neighbors.
3) No Poles or Syrians
4) We will do whatever whenever we happen to feel like it we’ll let you know
5)We want the letter Č stricken from the alphabet!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Porn filters are… tricky, and not simply because of enforcement issues. If you make smutty content the last thing you want is the government hiding it and making your product less accessible by your patrons. It’s also awkward for copyright enforcers, as well as the government, because porn is one the most pirated kind of media – filter that and two significant contributors in lobbyist funds get neutered.

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