The European Parliament on Wednesday approved a controversial EU copyright law proposed by European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip (Reform/ALDE) that hands more power to news and record companies against internet giants such as Google and Facebook.
MEPs meeting in the French city of Strasbourg voted 438 in favor of the measure, with 226 against and 39 abstentions.
European lawmakers were sharply divided on the issue, with both sides engaging in one of the biggest rounds of lobbying that the EU has ever seen.
MEPs settled on a text that compromised on some of the ways news organisations will be able to charge web companies for links to content. It also slightly watered down a proposal for so-called upload filters that will force platforms — such as YouTube or Facebook — to automatically delete content that violates copyright.
The vote in the European Parliament was "a strong and positive signal and an essential step to achieving our common objective of modernising copyright rules in the EU," said Ansip and European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel, who had proposed the reform.
Prior to the vote, French President Emmanuel Macron had called it a "fundamental battle for copyright," adding that "Europe must be worthy of its culture."
The goal of the law was to ensure content creators on the internet fair remuneration, but the bill saw fierce resistance by US tech giants as well as online freedom activists, with some campaigners warning it could spell the end of viral "memes" or jokes. There were also concerns that automatic filters to prevent users sharing content subject to copyright could be misused to censor political messages or other forms of free expression.
Traditional media, meanwhile, backed the bill, in urgent search of revenue at a time when web users shun newspapers and TV and advertising revenue is siphoned away by online platforms.
With Wednesday's vote, MEPs can now begin negotiations with the European Council representing the EU's 28 member states, which already reached a compromise on the issue in May. These closed-door discussions, which also include the European Commercial, are known in EU jargon as "trilogues," and can take several months before any compromise is put to a new vote.
Editor: Aili Vahtla