European lawmakers have rejected the fast-tracking of a piece of legislation that critics say would significantly damage internet freedom.
Parliamentarians in Strasbourg, France, cast their votes on the European Union’s new copyright directive on Thursday. The regulation is an update to a 2001 directive on copyright, and is aimed at modernizing those rules for the digital age.
The directive had been cleared by a European parliamentary committee, but legislators rejected a closed-door debate with EU member states, which would have sped-up the process of passing it into law.
A total of 318 lawmakers rejected the talks, while 278 voted in favor and 21 abstained. A further vote on the law will be delayed until September 10.
Under the new directive on copyright, online content platforms like Google and Facebook would be required to use filtering systems that block content — such as images and videos — that infringes the rights-holder’s copyright.
In addition, “new media” publishers would essentially be required to pay news organizations for the rights to share articles and other copyright-protected content, something critics claim is an effective “tax” on links.
This could have a particularly damaging effect on the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter, whose platforms rely on the sharing of news content, images and videos.
The copyright regulation is part of the EU’s “digital single market,” a strategy aimed at setting a common standard for online services and businesses.
"This vote today has been designed to start a gradual process of undoing all the regulation of the internet that has come about in the past few years by a radical streak in the parliament," Sajjad Karim, a British conservative member of the European Parliament (MEP), said in a statement following the vote.
"Those large platforms that have clearly invested heavily in pushing this 'internet is free for all unregulated space' political agenda cannot now, on the other hand, as policymakers expect us to trust in their voluntary willingness to self-regulate."
Julia Reda, a German MEP for the Greens-European Free Alliance, who has campaigned against the tougher aspects of the law, called the vote a "great success" on Twitter.
In protest of the law, the Italian and Spanish-language versions of Wikipedia blocked access to users earlier this week, arguing the law will impose “new barriers, filters and restrictions” that prevent users from being able to share content.
Wikimedia — which hosts the popular online encyclopedia — is one of a number of opponents of the law, slamming it as a “threat to our fundamental right to freely share information.”
Mozilla, the firm behind the internet browser Firefox, is also opposed, and argues the law could “make filtering and blocking online content far more routine.”
And Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, and Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, were among a number of high-profile industry figures to co-sign an open letter last month lambasting the proposed law as an “imminent threat” to the future of the internet.