Europe just voted to change the face of the internet, backing new laws wildly unpopular with firms like Google and Reddit

Jimmy Wales.JPGWikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is a vocal critic of the EU copyright laws.Reuters

  • The European Parliament has passed controversial new laws on internet copyright.
  • The new directive passed by 74 votes on Tuesday.
  • The laws are intended to ensure fair copyright on the internet, but have been sharply criticised for being overreaching.

The European Parliament on Tuesday passed legislation massively tightening copyright laws on the internet, a move which has been vocally opposed by tech companies, academics, and consumers.

The original draft of the new laws was sent back to the drawing board in July 2018 for being too sweeping. A softened version of the laws was then drawn up in September 2018. On Tuesday, the directive passed with 348 votes to 274.

Most contentious are articles 11 and 13. Article 11 is sometimes called the "link tax," and will require companies such as Google to hold licences for linking to publishers. Article 13 meanwhile requires that internet companies such as Reddit police their platforms for any copyright infringement uploaded to them, filtering out any offending content.

Julia Reda, a member of European Parliament who has campaigned against the laws, said it was a "dark day for internet freedom."

Google also tweeted its dismay, saying that the new laws will cause "legal uncertainty."

Reddit, Wikipedia, and PornHub were among those who protested against the laws last week asking users to lobby their representatives in the European Parliament to vote against the reforms.

Tens of thousands of protesters also took to the streets in Germany, and other European countries, including Sweden, Poland, Switzerland, Austria, and Portugal, to campaign against the changes.

On Sunday, a group of 200 European academics wrote a joint statement condemning the reform.

A major criticism levelled at the new laws is that they will chill freedom of speech online. When they were first drafted, some even feared that Article 13 could lead to the extinction of memes.

This story is developing.

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