EU proposes boosting copyright protections and increasing public Wi-Fi access


Today the European Union unveiled its plan to update its copyright law in a bid to ensure fair pay for journalists, authors, and creators of audiovisual content when their work is shared online. The EU also intends to improve access to high-speed internet and make it easier for scientists to access academic literature. The proposals were discussed by EU’s president Jean-Claude Juncker in his State of the Union address.

“We need to be connected,” Juncker said. “Our economy needs it. People need it. And we have to invest in that connectivity now.”

The new rules would task services like YouTube with ensuring that the media they host isn’t shared in a way that violates copyright. Google already screens YouTube videos for copyright violations with software called ContentID, according to Bloomberg. The most controversial part of the plan involves the EU’s copyright overhaul that would give journalism outlets more power to negotiate compensation from platforms, like Google News, that distribute their articles, photos, or videos. The risk, though, is that Google just won’t play along — it closed down Google News in Spain when similar regulations passed in 2014.

“We have to invest in that connectivity now.”

The new rules “would hurt anyone who writes, reads or shares the news,” Google said in a blog post today, arguing that it would mean increased barriers for sharing online content. The company also said these rules would mean that, “everything uploaded to the web must be cleared by lawyers before it can find an audience.”

Google isn’t the only large company likely to be disappointed by the plan. The publishers of major journals may be dismayed to discover that the proposed policies are meant to make it easier for scientists to rapidly extract data from the academic literature available online. “Science needs a copyright law that reflects the reality of the modern age,” Carlos Moedas, European commissioner for research, science, and innovation, said in a statement. “We must remove barriers that prevent scientists from digging deeper into the existing knowledge base”

The plans also include investing 120 million euros (about $135 million) to deploy free wireless internet access to places like parks and town squares in cities across Europe. And the EU proposed developing a standardized plan to roll out fast 5G mobile internet coverage by 2020.

One of the goals of the so-called 5G Action Plan is for the EU to avoid a repeat of its slow and fragmented launch of 4G/LTE coverage. The Action Plan might also include investing in “automated driving, goods delivered by drones, or virtual reality for specific professional collaboration,” according to a news release.

Right now these proposals are just that — proposals. The European Parliament still needs to discuss them, and member states will need to vote before they start seeing any changes.

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