Mozilla claims EU "squandered" chance to modernise copyright laws

Company behind Firefox believes there's "nothing to celebrate" with passing of Article 13

Firefox offices

Mozilla has accused the European Parliament of handing the power back to large US owned record labels, film studios and big tech companies by voting in favour of Article 13 and 11.

On Tuesday members of the EU voted in favour of controversial online copyright reforms with a majority of 348 to 274. Reacting to the vote, the company behind the Firefox web browser added its voice to a chorus of other complaints from industry figures, arguing the EU had "squandered" the opportunity to modernise copyright rules.

Raegan MacDonald, Mozilla's head of EU public policy, said the decision was "nothing to celebrate", adding that the EU had handed the power back to large US owned record labels, film studios and big tech firms.

"People online everywhere will feel the impact of this disastrous vote and we fully expect copyright to return to the political stage," said MacDonald in a statement on Wednesday. "Until then we will do our best to minimise the negative impact of this law on Europeans' internet experience and the ability of European companies to compete in the digital marketplace."

The new copyright reforms include the controversial Article 13, which means sites such as YouTube that support user-generated content will now become legally liable for the copyrighted material it hosts. Other sites, such as social media giants like Facebook and Twitter, will also be affected as it will ban the process of creating 'memes' or a similar act of taking an image and editing it for humorous purposes.

Article 11 will also aim to target news aggregators that use AI-driven algorithms to highlight the most important news stories from other websites, such as the news feeds in Google and Facebook. The aim is to help news outlets to generate extra money for the content they produce by forcing aggregators to pay individual news sites every time one of their articles is listed.

Mozilla's comments join almost universal condemnation of the reforms. Industry advocacy group TechUK argued that the EU had failed to strike the right balance between protecting copyright and ensuring freedom of expression.

"We are particularly concerned about the impact the new Copyright Directive will have on competition within the digital sector given the high cost of meeting the requirements Directive now creates," said Giles Derrington, techUK's associate director of policy.

Similarly, the Open Rights Group said it was "a very bad day for free expression, for copyright and democracy".

"If copyright filters go ahead, large numbers of mistaken takedowns will impact what we do and say online," said executive director, Jim Killock. "The EU Parliament has made a serious error of judgement here. We will go on doing everything we can to stop this being the disaster it promises to be."

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