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EU lawmakers back copyright reforms targeting Google, Facebook

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EU lawmakers have endorsed an overhaul of the bloc's two-decade old copyright rules, which will force Google and Facebook Inc to pay publishers for use of news snippets and make them filter out protected content.

[STRASBOURG] EU lawmakers have endorsed an overhaul of the bloc's two-decade old copyright rules, which will force Google and Facebook Inc to pay publishers for use of news snippets and make them filter out protected content.

The European Parliament backed the reforms by 348 votes to 274 on Tuesday after a debate that has pitted Europe's creative industry against tech companies, internet activists and consumer groups concerned that the new rules may be too costly and block too much content.

The European Commission began reviewing the rules two years ago in a bid to protect an industry that is worth 915 billion euros (S$1.39 trillion) a year, accounting for 11.65 million jobs and 6.8 per cent of the EU economy.

The Commission's digital chief for Europe Andrus Ansip welcomed the outcome, saying the reforms would improve the position of writers, journalists, singers, musicians and actors in relation to the big platforms that benefited from their content.

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"Today's vote ensures the right balance between the interests of all players - users, creators, authors, press - while putting in place proportionate obligations on online platforms," he said in a statement.

But Google said the reforms would lead to legal uncertainty and hurt Europe's creative and digital economies. The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) echoed the criticism.

"Consumers will have to bear the consequences of this decision. Their concerns had been voiced loud and clearly but MEPs chose to ignore them," BEUC director general Monique Goyens said.

Lawmaker Julia Reda, a prominent critic of the reforms, said they threatened the free internet.

"Algorithms cannot distinguish between actual copyright infringements and the perfectly legal re-use of content for purposes such as parody," she said.

REUTERS