A 318-278 majority of MEPs in the European Parliament has voted to reopen debate around a controversial digital copyright reform proposal — meaning it will now face further debate and scrutiny in the parliament, rather than be fast-tracked towards becoming law via the standard EU trilogue negotiation process.
Crucially MEPs will have the chance to amend the controversial proposals.
Last month the EU parliament’s legal affairs committee approved the final text of the copyright proposal — including approving its two most controversial articles — kicking off a last ditch effort by groups opposed to what they dub the ‘link tax’ and ‘censorship machines’ to marshal MEPs to reopen debate and file amendments.
The copyright reform proposals are controversial largely on account of two articles:
- Article 11 — which proposes to create a neighboring right for snippets of journalistic content in order to target news aggregator business models, like Google News, which publishers have long argued are unfairly profiting from their work.
Similar ancillary copyright laws have previously been enacted in Germany and Spain — and in the latter market, where the licensing requirement was not flexible, Google News closed up shop entirely, leading, say critics, to decreased traffic referrals to Spanish news sites.
- Article 13 — which makes Internet platforms that host large amounts of user-uploaded content directly liable for copyright infringements by their users, and would likely push platforms such as YouTube towards pre-filtering all user generated content at the point of upload, with all the associated potential chilling effects if/when algorithms fail to recognize fair use of a copyrighted work, for instance.
Article 13 is arguably the more controversial element of the two, and it is certainly where opposition campaigning has been fiercest. Though it has strong support from musicians and the music industry who have spent years fighting YouTube, arguing it exploits legal protections around music videos viewed on its service and pays lower royalties than they are due.
In the opposition camp, a broad coalition of digital rights organizations, startup groups, Internet architects, computer scientists, academics and web advocates — including the likes of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Vint Cerf, Bruce Schneier, Jimmy Wales and Mitch Kapor, who in an open letter last month argued that Article 13 “takes an unprecedented step towards the transformation of the Internet from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users”.
This week several European language versions of Wikipedia also blacked out encyclopedia content in a ‘going dark’ protest against the proposals, though the European Commission has claimed online encyclopedias would not be impacted by Article 13. A claim that is, however, disputed by opponents…
An online petition calling for MEPs to vote to for the parliament to be able to amend the proposals had gathered more than 850,000 signatures at the time of the vote.
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