Skip to main content

Stalemate Continues in Negotiations Over European Copyright Filters

DEEPLINKS BLOG
July 10, 2017

This week is an important one in the ongoing negotiations over new copyright rules in Europe—which will have reverberations all over the world. As you may recall, the negotiations centre around two worrisome proposals being pushed by publisher and music industry lobby groups for inclusion in a new Digital Single Market Directive: a requirement for mandatory upload filtering by user content platforms (Article 13), and a link tax payable by news aggregators in favor of publishers (Article 11).

The convoluted process of negotiation over new European laws means that not only do three European institutions (the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, and the European Commission) have to reach an accord on the terms of the Directive, but within the European Parliament itself there are also multiple committees that get to weigh in. The Lead Committee is the Legal Affairs or JURI Committee, but it is required to take account of the opinions, and proposed amendments, of the other committees. This week two of those committees will go to a vote on their opinions and suggested amendments, while the JURI committee will consider its own amendments to the European Commission's original proposal.

The Committee on Culture and Education (CULT), whose extreme proposals for amendment to the Commission proposal we critiqued in a previous post, will be voting on July 11 on which amendments it will put forward to JURI for inclusion in the Parliament's final compromise text. Since none of CULT's suggested amendments to Articles 11 and 13 would improve on the original proposal—in fact, they would make it worse—we are urging Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who are member of the CULT simply to vote for the deletion of those Articles. In particular, as pointed out by European Digital Rights (EDRi, of which EFF is a member), for CULT to support mandatory filtering of uploads on user content platforms would directly contradict that committee's own opposition to mandatory filtering of terrorist and other extreme content. 

On the same day, the Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee will also vote on its draft opinion and amendments. Its takes on the upload filter and link tax proposals are not as extreme as those of CULT. In fact its suggested amendment to the Article 11 link tax would gut that misconceived proposal, replacing it with a relatively unobjectionable provision that simply allows press publishers to stand in for journalists in enforcing their existing copyrights in news articles. ITRE's suggested amendment to Article 13 doesn't go so far though, and continues to require platforms to take additional measures such as upload filtering at the behest of copyright holders; therefore we maintain that ITRE should instead vote for deletion of this Article.

Two more European Parliamentary committees are also weighing in on these controversial proposals. The IMCO or Consumer Protection and Internal Market Committee voted on its opinion and amendments on 8 June, with a recommendation against the Article 13 upload filtering plan—this should hopefully be persuasive, as it has a special cooperative status with JURI on this topic. Unfortunately, IMCO did not also vote against the Article 11 link tax, but supported the Commission's original proposal. Next to vote after this week will be the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee, which will vote on its opinion and amendments on September 25.

European activists have put together a Save the Meme website which can be used to contact MEPs about the upload filtering and link tax proposals. Today, in advance of the CULT and ITRE votes and JURI's consideration of its amendments, would be an excellent day for our European members to take advantage of that opportunity and ask their representatives to vote against the Commission's harmful proposals.

JavaScript license information