Finland, like other EU countries, needs to change its legislation to take account of the EU’s new copyright directive (DSM directive).
The copyright directive, which was adopted in 2019 after difficult negotiations, was – and is still – very controversial.
At the centre of the controversies are rules about a new right for press publishers and rules about protection of copyright online.
The new right, the so-called press publishers’ neighbouring right, aims to support the media sector in relation to the giant companies that dominate the internet. The copyright directive gives press publishers certain rights to payments if for example Google News uses the press publisher’s content, because the news aggregator benefits from the content that has been produced by the press publisher.
The new rules about protection of copyright online tighten the responsibility of online platforms – for example YouTube – for copyright-infringing content uploaded by users.
EU countries had strongly differing views about the copyright directive. Finland was one of the countries that voted against the directive in the EU council. The EU parliament approved the copyright directive with the votes 348-274.
Many organisations opposed the press publishers’ new neighbouring right and the directive’s rules about protection of copyright online as contrary to free information exchange and freedom of expression. The negotiations about the directive received considerable media attention. Opponents spoke about, for example, a “link tax” and a possible “meme ban”. The finalised copyright directive allows memes. Read a newspaper article in Finnish about the copyright directive here.
The directive’s rules about the press publishers’ new neighbouring right (article 15) – called a “link tax” by opponents – and rules about protection of copyright online (article 17) are very open to interpretation. This is a challenge for EU countries that have to adjust their legislation to take account of the directive.
Many experts expect that interpretation of the copyright directive will need to be clarified through court cases, in the EU Court of Justice and also in member states.
Countries’ differing views complicate the current situation. For example, Poland has demanded that the EU’s court should annul parts of article 17 (about protection of copyright online) as contrary to fundamental rights. Poland claims that to avoid liability for copyright infringements online platforms will in practice need to monitor all users’ content.
The copyright directive also aims to strengthen the rights of creators. The directive contains rules about “appropriate and proportionate” remuneration, which creators – for example artists and journalists – can benefit from (article 18).
The rules about the press publishers’ neighbouring right include a right for journalists and other creators to an ”appropriate share” of the revenues that press publishers receive on the basis of the right.
It is, however, not clear that the press publishers’ right will result in significant revenues for press publishers. We addressed this and other effects of the copyright directive in the media sector with my colleague Daniel Lindblom in the report Media-alan ja verkkoalustojen muuttuva suhde. The report also addressed the effects of coming EU legislation in the digital area (the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act). Read the report Media-alan ja verkkoalustojen muuttuva suhde in Finnish here.
The ministry of education and culture is inviting submissions concerning the legislative changes related to the copyright directive in October 2021. Read the ministry’s request for submissions concerning the legislative changes related to the copyright directive here.
Joy Hyvärinen is a member of the working group on Freedom of expression in the digital age and a member of Finnish PEN’s board