EU court dismisses Polish complaint over copyright reform

A top European Union court on Tuesday dismissed Poland’s complaint against the bloc’s copyright reform, ruling that it does not threaten freedom of expression as feared by Warsaw.

“The directive introduces several procedural safeguards, which protect the right to freedom of expression and information of users,” the Court of Justice of the European Union said.

The verdict should put an end to the legal issue, one of many between Poland’s nationalist government and the EU.

Under the reform adopted in 2019, European law now holds platforms legally responsible for enforcing copyright, requiring them to check what their users post to prevent infringement. 

The reform was backed by media companies and artists but opposed by internet giants and supporters of a free internet.

Poland was one of six countries against the reform. 

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Konrad Szymanski had argued that its provisions posed a “serious threat to freedom of expression” and could even lead to “the adoption of regulations similar to preventive censorship”. 

But the court ruled that the reform came with a “clear and precise limit on the measures that may be taken… by excluding, in particular, measures which filter and block lawful content when uploading”. 

It pointed out that the directive notably allows the use of protected content for parody or pastiche.

It added that platforms had no “general monitoring obligation” but rather depended on rightholders to provide them with the necessary information regarding unlawful content. 

The court cautioned however that member states must “take care to act on the basis of an interpretation… which allows a fair balance to be struck between the various fundamental rights”. 

Besides holding platforms responsible for enforcing copyright, the directive also requires online platforms to pay “neighbouring rights” fees to media for links to, and short excerpts of, news stories.