European Union countries with tougher copyright law challenge to Google, others

The file photo, taken on February 16, 2019, shows Google logos displayed on a tablet in Paris. (By AFP)
European Union countries on Monday adopted copyright reforms championed by news publishers and the media business but opposed by American tech giants and internet freedom activists who worry it could chill the sharing of information.

Romania, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, said the "balanced text" adopted by ministers meeting in Luxembourg was a "milestone" toward building the bloc's digital single market.

EU sources said Italy, Finland, Sweden, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Poland voted against the controversial legislation. Belgium, Estonia and Slovenia abstained.

But the opposition was not enough to block the overhaul.

"I am very glad that we have achieved a balanced text," said Valer Daniel Breaz, Romanian Minister for Culture and National Identity.

He said the text creates "multiple opportunities for Europe's creative sectors, which will thrive and better reflect our cultural diversity and other European common values."

Breaz added it also offers the same "for the users, whose freedom of expression on internet will be consolidated." "This is a milestone for the development of a robust and well-functioning digital single market."

An EU statement said "the new rules ensure adequate protection for authors and artists, while opening up new possibilities for accessing and sharing copyright-protected content online throughout the European Union."

The culmination of a process that began in 2016, the revamp to European copyright legislation was seen urgent as the rules had not been updated since 2001, before the birth of YouTube or Facebook.

The reform was strongly backed artists and media companies, including Agence France-Presse, who want to secure revenue from web platforms that allow users to distribute their content.

But it was strongly opposed by internet freedom activists and by Silicon Valley, especially Google, which makes huge profits from the advertising generated alongside the content it hosts.

Proponents of the law said they expected a backlash.

"The entertainment lobby will not stop here, over the next two years, they will push for national implementations that ignore users' fundamental rights," tweeted Julia Reda, a German member of the European Parliament.

"It will be more important than ever for civil society to keep up the pressure in the Member States! #SaveYourInternet," she wrote.