The Directive (EU) 2019/790 on copyright in the digital single market has entered into force in mid-2019. It has amended the directives on the legal protection of databases and on copyright in the information society. One of its changes is a controversial provision that imposes obligations to online content-sharing service providers with respect to copyright-protected content uploaded by its users.
According to the directive, information society service providers storing and giving access to a large amount of copyright-protected works, uploaded by its users, for profit-making purposes, will have to obtain an authorisation from the rightholders. Therefore, web providers will no longer be able to rely on the notice and take down process, which has so far relieved them of their responsibility under the “hosting” exception. From now on, they will have to endeavour to obtain an authorization or to make specific works unavailable, and, in any case, expeditiously disable access to, or remove from their websites, the protected works, as well as prevent future violations. They will also need to provide an effective and expeditious online complaint and redress mechanism.
It is undoubtedly in the interest of web service providers hosting large volumes of user uploaded content to implement technical solutions for infringement checks and to regulate licensing by changing the general conditions. The directive is to be implemented by the Republic of Slovenia in national legislation only in 2021. Nevertheless, the obligations do not fully apply to all providers and the sharing of content for specific purposes is sometimes permissible. Therefore, the least that web hosting providers should do now, in order to adapt their businesses in a timely manner, is to check whether or not they are bound by the new copyright rules in the digital single market.