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Italian version of Copyright Directive says non-infringing material must be blocked

By | Published on Tuesday 21 May 2019


That all-new European Copyright Directive you keep banging on about has finally been published in the Official Journal Of The European Union. What does that mean?

It means the copyright law reforming directive – passed after much hoo haa by both the European Parliament and EU Council earlier this year – will actually come into force on 7 Jun. Each EU member state then has two years to amend their local copyright law to fall in line with the new directive.

As Reed Smith lawyer Sophie Goossens pointed out at the CMU+TGE Digital Dollars Conference earlier this month, because the directive relates to copyright material online it’s particularly important that the directive is implemented in a consistent way across the EU. Meaning that whichever country implements it first – probably France – will likely influence how it is implemented elsewhere.

Though the all-important article thirteen (which became article seventeen) that reforms the copyright safe harbour and increases the liabilities of websites like YouTube could end up quite different in Italy. And all because of a translation error.

The IPKat website has reported that, in the Italian translation of the directive, a sentence that is meant to ensure that deals between user-upload sites and copyright owners do not impact on non-infringing content actually says the opposite.

So in English the directive says that such deals “SHALL NOT result in the prevention of the availability of works … uploaded by users, which do not infringe copyright … including where such works … are covered by an exception or limitation”.

Whereas the Italian version, when translated back into English, says that such deals “MUST prevent the availability of works … uploaded by users that do not infringe copyright … even in cases where such works … are subject to an exception or limitation”.

So that’s fun. I mean, presumably the error will be quickly fixed and then speedily forgotten. But these are crazy times in which we live, so who knows?

Maybe Italian law will soon demand that YouTube’s Content-ID system is skewed to ensure that all non-copyright-infringing content is filtered out with immediate effect. Some YouTube creators might argue that it sometimes feels like that’s the way it works already.