Last year, the EU adopted the incredibly controversial Copyright Directive (it passed by only five votes, and afterwards 10 MEPs said they'd got confused and pushed the wrong buttons!): now, EU member states have to create rules that require online platforms to filter all user-generated content and block it if it matches a secret, unaccountable blacklist of supposedly copyrighted works; and to allow news sites to veto or charge for links to their articles.
But Chris Skidmore, the UK Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, has publicly announced that the UK government has no plans implement the directive, citing time pressure in the runup to and aftermath of Brexit.
This doesn't mean that Britons will be spared the ill-considered effects of the directive, though. Much of the pressure to pass the directive came from the UK, with support from giant media monopolies like EMI, well-known performers like Paul McCartney and Debbie Harry, trade unions like the National Union of Journalists (of which I'm a member; when I told their policy person that the rules would allow fraudsters to claim the works of Shakespeare, they told me that their job wasn't to protect Shakespeare, it was to protect news photographers whose images were misappropriated by clickbait sites), and even prominent Labour politicians, who cheered the directive's passage as giving a black eye to US Big Tech companies (and Big Tech will have to pay out a few hundred million euros to comply with the rules, but in exchange, they can be assured that all their smaller EU-based competitors will not be able to afford this and thus be neutralised as competitive threats).
Moreover, Skidmore has said that his government is "supportive" of the directive's goals.
So while I'm genuinely delighted that there will be some delay in the UK's implementation of the disastrous provisions of the Copyright Directive, I think that a funeral for filtering and link-taxes in the UK is decidedly premature. The UK Labour Party proved itself to be an incoherent mess when it came to tech policy; the Tories are even worse; and the Libdems talked a good game but sold us all out, which is the most on-brand thing ever.
“[T]he United Kingdom will not be required to implement the Directive, and the Government has no plans to do so,” said Skidmore. “Any future changes to the UK copyright framework will be considered as part of the usual domestic policy process.”
That doesn’t mean the UK won’t implement similar laws later, though. During a recent debate on the music industry, the government’s Minister for Sport, Media & Creative Industries, Nigel Adams, indicated that copyright holders like music labels (who support the directive as it gives them more power over tech giants) could sway policy in future.
The UK won’t implement EU’s controversial copyright directive after Brexit [James Vincent/The Verge]