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Copyright June Madness

· June 29, 2017

June has been an eventful month for the copyright reform at the European Parliament, with major developments in several committees. As the summer holidays are drawing near, a look at the state of play seems appropriate. However, before jumping into the nitty-gritty of parliamentary procedure, any reader wishing for additional background information can find it here.

Copyright reform and Maltese elections

In an unexpected turn of events, the Maltese snap legislative elections of June 4 impacted the European Parliament’s review of the copyright proposal. As faithful DisCo readers might remember, the lead rapporteur for the copyright proposal was Maltese MEP Comodini Cachia. Elected as a member of the Maltese parliament, Mrs Comodini Cachia decided to give up her position as MEP to take up her Maltese parliamentary seat.

Therefore, a new lead rapporteur for the copyright proposal was appointed for the Legal Affairs Committee (“JURI”): German MEP Axel Voss from the European People’s Party. Following his appointment, MEP Voss stated that “[his] aim is a balance: copyright holders and consumers”. While it would have been better to see “online services” added to this list – as this is, after all, a proposal for a directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market – aiming for a balanced approach is of course the right way to go.

Unfortunately, before his appointment, MEP Voss tabled several problematic amendments to this proposal. One of them, for example, tries to implement the Spanish ancillary copyright at the European level by “including an unwaivable right to equitable remuneration”, “enforced only by a collective management organisation” for the use of press publications. This amendment was tabled despite El Pais, one of Spain’s biggest newspaper, rejecting the European ancillary copyright for press publishers.

The next few months of negotiations within the Legal Affairs Committee should therefore be quite interesting.

Copyright reform and the IMCO vote

Four days after the Maltese elections, the Internal Market and Consumer Affairs Committee (“IMCO”) adopted its final opinion on the copyright reform. In short, this opinion (like the opinions from the Culture, Industry and Civil Liberties Committees) will be taken into account by the Legal Affairs Committee, which – as lead committee for this proposal – will adopt the European Parliament’s final position on the copyright reform.

Good news first: in this opinion, IMCO adopted a sensible compromise from the main European Parliament’s political groups on mandatory filtering requirements for user-uploaded content and the liability of internet intermediaries. Whilst not perfect, this compromise respects existing European legal framework and take into account users’ rights.

Bad news to conclude: despite all political groups except EPP supporting the compromise put forward by the IMCO rapporteur to delete the new publishers’ right (or “ancillary copyright”), the compromise was not adopted. In fact, no compromise at all was adopted on this provision – a shame, as this new right would undermine the free flow of information on the Internet (as we described previously many times).

Negotiations, debates, discussions on this copyright reform will continue until mid-July, and then start again in September, with consumers, civil society and online services urging European lawmakers to “embrace a more ambitious agenda for positive reform”. Let’s hope that during the Summer holidays, Members of the European Parliament go to seek wisdom; I hear that the oracle of Delphi can be helpful on such complex matters!

European Union

DisCo is dedicated to examining technology and policy at a global scale.  Developments in the European Union play a considerable role in shaping both European and global technology markets.  EU regulations related to copyright, competition, privacy, innovation, and trade all affect the international development of technology and tech markets.