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Controversial changes to copyright laws approved by the EU

EU lawmakers have approved controversial changes to copyright legislation that some critics say could alter the nature of the internet.

The Copyright Directive was approved by 348 MEPs, while 274 voted against and 36 abstained.

The move is designed to make tech giants more responsible for paying creatives, musicians and news outlets more fairly for their work online.

EU member states have two years to implement the reforms – though it is not clear how the changes would affect the UK amid Brexit uncertainty.

Musicians Paul McCartney and Debbie Harry have been among the most vocal supports of the law reforms, alongside a number of groups including the European Alliance of News Agencies which argue that it provides an opportunity to further develop quality news services.

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Copyright laws were last amended in 2001 and it has taken several revisions for the current legislation to reach its final form.

Following the vote, UK Music tweeted: "A huge thank you to all the MEPs who supported the Copyright Directive today and the fantastic work of all those who have campaigned so hard on this".

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German MEP Julia Reda, who is against the changes, described the decision as a "dark day for internet freedom".

People working in the creative, music and journalism industries have long argued that the Copyright Directive will enable content-makers to be fairly paid for their work.

Image: Google say the changes will create 'legal uncertainty'

Opponents of the law reforms – which include the tech giants themselves – fear the changes will have an impact on freedom of speech and expression online.

Article 11 and Article 13 were the two clauses that caused the most controversy since talks started – with YouTube warning that viewers across the EU could be cut off from videos.

Article 11, known as the "Link Tax", states news aggregators such as Google and Apple should pay to use links from news websites.

Article 13 essentially means that sites that host user-generated content such as YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook become legally liable for the copyrighted material it hosts.

Alexandra Giboi, secretary general of the European Alliance of News Agencies, said the new copyright legislation will prove to be a "win-win solution for both the trustworthy, quality media and the public".

European Parliament Rapporteur Axel Voss said the legislation will "help make the internet ready for the future".

He said: "This directive is an important step towards correcting a situation which has allowed a few companies to earn huge sums of money without properly remunerating the thousands of creatives and journalists whose work they depend on."

Google said that the changes are an improvement from the original law, but added that it will still lead to "legal uncertainty" and hurt the creative industries.

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