The new European Copyright Directive – Estonia’s stance

Published 29 April 2019 by Law Office Turnstone

The new European Union Copyright Directive (hereinafter also Act) was adopted by the Council of the European Union on the 15th of April 2019. The new Act can be considered one of the major changes the internet domain has seen in the last few years. The last time the entire European Union, big corporations and EU’s citizens were in this kind of an uproar was when the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was implemented. This time many (including legal scholars) are warning that the new Act can have grim effect on the freedom of speech, expression and other freedoms which European Union citizen’s hold dear.

The new Act implements a new order which compels various media platforms such as Google to sign a license agreement with musicians, authors, performers etc. to use their work. Additionally, mega platforms like Instagram are required to implement filters which help to weed out copyrighted material when there is no license to use it. While people are still free to upload any and all content, big tech companies have warned that these obligations will result in platforms removing tremendously more content automatically.

Even though it was Estonian Andrus Ansip, the current European Commissioner for Digital Single Market and Vice President of the European Commission, who led the drafting of the new copyright directive, Estonia has less than favorable view towards the new Act. In this article the writer shall give an overview on Estonia’s stance on the new copyright directive.

Estonia first supported the efforts to modernize the copyright legislation in the European Union and took the first steps to do so turning the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2017. Even most of the Act’s text was concluded turning the ‘17s Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. But surprisingly Estonian Ministry of Justice has backed down from supporting the new Act. The current Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu declared, when discussing why Estonia will not be supporting the Act and Internet freedom: ‘’Freedom is an essential value and for this reason Estonia will not say ‘’yes’’ to this Act and shall remain impartial.’’[1]

Turning the discussions in the European Union’s legislative branches, Estonian permanent representative had repeatedly tried to draw attention to the issues of imbalance in the Act. The foremost issue being the shortcomings in balancing the rights of owners of copyrighted materials, people and enterprises.

Estonian Ministry of Justice finds also that the new Act can affect innovation in a negative way – impede it.  Additionally, Estonia also speculates that the new Act can have an unfavorable influence on the European Union’s new ‘’golden egg’’ – the digital single market and its ability to compete with other markets.

While Estonia has yet to disclose which parts of the new Act were suddenly unacceptable to the Justice Ministry, the press release had a vague indication that the Act does not meet the standard of legal certainty.

There has been a lot of uncertainty across the European Union (and across the pond) as to what exactly the Act shall mean for the Internet, media platforms, content creators and to consumers. There have been vast amounts of fear mongering from major tech companies such as YouTube which has said that the Act may result in forbidding some (read: most) of the content accessible on the platform due to the new requirements set forth. 

It is clear that the Act can have an unimaginable effect on the Internet as we know it today. Part of joy and gratification of being a European Union citizen is to have the freedom to speak our mind, express our views and share thoughts through vlogging (blogging by video), it is hard to imagine that soon the European Union can have limitation to the Internet such as China and North-Korea.

In conclusion, Estonia was very supportive of renewing legislation concerning copyrights within the European Union but after seeing all the backlash the Act has received Estonia has changed its tune. The author of this article finds that the freedoms of people must be protected not only in the physical world but also in the digital one, therefor she agrees with Estonian stance. World has developed greatly within the last few decades – new technologies and new prospects – countries must start focusing more on the involvement of IT-specialists, tech-companies and others who have knowledge in the sphere of technology in order to have well-functioning and healthy legal atmosphere which has legislations that actually serve a purpose.

 

Liis Peedu

lawyer

Law Office Turnstone

 

[1] Estonian Ministry of Justice, 15.04.2019 available https://www.just.ee/et/uudised/eesti-ei-toeta-autorioiguste-direktiivi-vastuvotmist-loplikul-heakskiitmisel (in Estonian)