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Pressure builds ahead of European vote on safe harbour


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Music rightsholders in Europe are preparing for the latest stage of lobbying in the debate over safe-harbour reform – ahead of a crucial vote in the European Parliament next week. PRS for Music is flagging up a ‘Make Internet Fair’petition that’s been signed (so far) by more than 32,000 creators, songwriters included.

“This is about copyright and specifically about the rights of creators versus those of the Internet giants; it is about the way the Internet functions as a fair and efficient marketplace. It is a debate we must win if we want to secure our creative community into the next decade,” said PRS CEO Robert Ashcroft.

Indie body Impala, meanwhile, has published an open letter to members of the European Parliament (MEPs) calling for them to vote in favour of the proposal for a new copyright directive which (they feel) will tilt the legislative landscape towards creators and away from large technology companies.

“This is about empowering individual creators and creative SMEs and ensuring the internet is fair and sustainable for all. If all platforms distributing works have to play by the same rules, that means there will be more opportunities for other market players in Europe,” claimed Impala. “There is no ‘Censorship machine’, ‘upload filter’, or ‘robocopyright’. These terms are being used by anti-copyright and pro-tech campaigners to try to hold onto the old world and avoid sharing revenues properly.”

Google is, once again, in the firing line amid all this – and not just because of YouTube’s safe-harbour status. An email sent by Google to news sites and publications that are part of its Digital News Innovation (DNI) initiative, criticising the current proposals and encouraging them to contact MEPs if they “feel strongly about this”, has sparked anger within several creative industries.

Google has invested more than €94m so far in more than 460 digital-innovation projects by news sites and publications – in the UK alone, Reuters, The Times, the Financial Times, the Telegraph and the Press Association are among the partners – so the suggestion that the company is trying to enlist these funding-recipients into its lobbying efforts has sparked anger among rightsholders – “blatant manipulation of newspapers” as Impala’s Helen Smith described it.

“The purpose of the DNI Working Group is to exchange views and improve collaboration between the news industry and Google. The group asked us to send them our views on Europe’s copyright reform, and we were happy to share our position and a summary of the views of others,” was how Google’s director of strategic relations Madhav Chinnappa – the author of the email – put it.

We’ve written before, most recently around the launch of the revamped YouTube Music, about a separation between Google’s music-service efforts and the debate over safe-harbour. Or rather: the fact that it’s no contradiction for the music industry to engage constructively with the former, while continuing to press its case for the latter. That remains our view: positive feelings about YouTube Music’s evolution do not cancel out anger over Google’s approach to safe-harbour lobbying. Next week’s vote will be a crucial (and, inevitably, divisive) step in the process of safe-harbour modernisation, whose ripples will be felt far beyond Europe.

Stuart Dredge

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