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EU countries back copyright overhaul that threatens to hit YouTube and Facebook

CNBC logo CNBC 6 days ago Ryan Browne
© Reuters
  • The EU's copyright directive was backed by 19 countries, while six member states voted against and three abstained from the vote.
  • The legislation has been criticized by the likes of Google and internet freedom campaigners who worry it will result in censorship.

European Union countries approved sweeping reforms to the bloc's copyright laws on Monday, marking a symbolic end to a political battle that has pitted tech giants against high-profile media figures.

The copyright directive was backed by 19 countries at an EU Council vote, with six member states — including Italy and the Netherlands — voting against it. Three countries abstained from the vote.

a group of people standing in front of a sign: People attend a demonstration against Article 13 of the planned EU reform of copyright. © Provided by CNBC LLC People attend a demonstration against Article 13 of the planned EU reform of copyright.

The legislation, which was passed by lawmakers at the EU Parliament last month, aims to update the EU's rules on copyright to reflect the challenges posed by the age of information. But it's been criticized by the likes of Google and internet freedom campaigners who worry it will result in censorship.

One of the most heavily scrutinized aspects of the law, Article 13 — or 17 as it's now numbered — would make tech firms liable for copyright breaches. This means they will have to acquire licenses from rights holders to be able to host such content in the first place.

© Getty

Opponents of the law say this will lead to controversial filtering systems that block everything from memes to GIFs before they're even uploaded. The EU, however, says this won't be the case, claiming that people will still be able to share such content freely.

Either way, the new law is expected to hit platforms that rely on user-generated content — like YouTube, Facebook and Instagram — hard.

The copyright battle has been characterized as "Hollywood vs. Silicon Valley," with musicians from ex-Beatle Paul McCartney to Blondie singer Debbie Harry in favor and big tech firms like Google and Twitter against.

Gallery: Simple tips to be safer in the digital world (Photos)

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