MEPs have rejected a proposal to begin negotiations on EU copyright reform. The proposal had been approved by Parliament’s legal affairs committee. The file will now be debated and subject to a vote during the September plenary session.
The proposals triggered intense debate and lobbying, with MEPs receiving tens of thousands of emails on the matter. Even celebrities like Paul McCartney got involved.
The lobbying was so intense, claimed S&D group Chair Udo Bullmann, that “numerous MEPs have been subject to serious threats in the last few days. This is completely unacceptable. The lobby groups pushing on both sides of the debate need to realise that their actions have consequences. We encourage all those involved to tone down the rhetoric and make sure that threats of physical violence, or even death, are never acceptable.
“There has been a lot of misleading information spread ahead of this vote. We will not accept the level of abuse and intimidation that has been given over the last few days. We will defend the autonomy of the European Parliament and the right of our MEPs to work without being threatened.”
The copyright reform would have forced websites like Facebook and YouTube to use filters to detect content that had been uploaded illegally, but critics warned that filters were unreliable. Users would have been unfairly prevented from sharing videos, text or music online, they said.
Ahead of the vote, Angela Mills Wade, Executive Director of the European Publishers Council, accused opponents of the reform of using “scaremongering tactics entitled ‘savethelink’ and ‘savetheinternet’ designed to frighten consumers, and indeed politicians, into blocking the copyright reform. The proposed publisher’s neighbouring right in article 11 gives press publishers legal standing over their published product (as opposed to individual articles). They need this because, in the digital world, companies routinely scrape, copy and monetise thousands of articles at a time, making any legal challenge totally unrealistic.”
Julia Reda, a fierce opponent of the proposal, said before the vote that the reform would “effectively limit our ability to legitimately and for our own private and non-commercial purposes talk about the news of the day with our friends.”
Commenting on the outcome of the vote, Axel Voss, Parliament’s rapporteur on the file, hit out at “the massive scale of false arguments used in recent weeks against the compromise. Whether they have been intentional or just a result of the lack of information, they managed to create an atmosphere that the internet is about to collapse. There can’t be any more false statements like that.
“Let me repeat, nobody in the European Parliament wants to establish ‘censorship’, ‘filters, a ‘link-tax’ or the restriction of the freedom of speech. Those who imply differently are consciously spreading fake news and are acting solely in the interest of big online platforms.”
He added, “What we want is to reinstate the rules that would ensure legal certainty for the use of copyright-protected works between the right holders and the user. The online encyclopaedias such as Wikipedia will be explicitly exempted.
“But we address the issue that online platforms that have as a main purpose to share the works uploaded by its users often neglect the infringements of copyright. They profit from it and we want them to bear the burden of responsibility so they make sure that the uploaded works are not infringing copyright rules. We must address this value gap in our future negotiations with the Council.”