Google, Facebook dealt blow by EU lawmakers in copyright fight

Tech platforms and internet activists protested the outcome of a European Parliament vote on Wednesday to back copyright rules that would help video, music and other rights holders seek compensation for use of their content online.

Alphabet's Google, Facebook and other tech firms may now be forced to negotiate licenses for content that appears on their sites after lawmakers broadly supported a legislative proposal for new copyright rules, unveiled in 2016 by the European Commission.

The European Parliament in July had rejected the rules but backed them in a final vote on Wednesday after lawmakers submitted slight tweaks to the text.

If they fail to negotiate a license, the companies would have to actively filter out copyrighted content from what users upload on their platforms, which has sparked concerns among internet activists that this could lead to censorship.

European lawmakers "decided to support the filtering of the internet to the benefit of big businesses in the music and publishing industries despite huge public outcry," said Siada El Ramly, director general of Edima, an internet platform association that includes Facebook and Google. "We hope that governments of the EU will hear their citizens’ concerns in the next stage of negotiations.”

The final version of the law still needs to be agreed with the commission and EU member states, who also broadly support the commission’s proposal, before it enters into force.

Julia Reda, an internet activist and German member of European Parliament, on Twitter called part of the vote "catastrophic," adding that "parliament has failed to listen to citizens’ and experts’ concerns".

The parliament’s vote comes amid a broader push by legislators in Europe and the US to make tech platforms more legally liable for what appears on their sites. Earlier Wednesday, the commission proposed new legislation forcing internet companies to wipe Islamic State videos and other terror content from their services within an hour or face fines if they fail to do so.

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