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European copyright vote stalls progress of Article 13


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If this week has felt like a bit too much European policymaking at the top of this bulletin, apologies. But the debate around the draft Copyright Directive, and particularly its Article 13, is something that’s being watched closely around the world. By now you may know that yesterday’s vote in the European Parliament did not go the way much of the music industry and its allies had hoped: 318 votes to reject the directive in its current form, versus 278 to approve it, with 31 abstentions.

Reactions from the music industry fall into two camps: those rolling up their sleeves for the next stage of amending the proposed legislation before it gets a full debate in the European Parliament, and those training their fire on technology companies (Google in particular) and decrying yesterday’s vote as a wasted opportunity.

Examples of the former include the BPI. “We respect the decision by MEPs to have a plenary discussion on the draft Copyright Directive.  We will work with MEPs over the next weeks to explain how the proposed Directive will benefit not just European creativity, but also internet users and the technology sector,” said CEO Geoff Taylor.

“It is a shame not to have got resolution for performers and songwriters in today’s committee vote on the JURI text. However, it is right that such an important and complex issue be given full consideration by parliament in a second reading,” added AIM boss Paul Pacifico. “This vote is a set-back but it is not the end… We are confident that the European Parliament will eventually support a framework that fully acknowledges the rights of creators in the digital landscape of the 21st century,” said Sacem secretary general David El Seyagh.

In the second camp? “It is perhaps unsurprising considering the unprecedented level of lobbying and the comprehensive campaign of misinformation which has accompanied this vote that MEPs want more time to consider the proposals,” said PRS for Music boss Robert Ashcroft. “It is incredibly disappointing that, having been ferociously lobbied by opponents using false arguments, the European Parliament has stopped short of supporting the fair rights of creators,” added CISAC president Jean Michel Jarre. “Today is a bad day for Europe’s culture and creative industries. The decision of the European Parliament weakens the position of all creators. An unprecedented disinformation campaign has caused confusion and torn down the cultural value system,” said Gema CEO Dr Harald Heker.

These views are no surprise: the ill-feeling has been building steadily over recent weeks, with accusations over how Google may have been exerting its influence from the music side, but also anger on the other side at suggestions this is just about big-tech – this Twitter thread involving UK Music, Wikimedia, BASCA chair Crispin Hunt and Wikipedia boss Jimmy Wales offers a window in to that particular dispute, for example, as well as into the real fury felt on the music side.

“We may have lost this particular round, but the fight to ensure fairness for music creators goes on,” is how UK Music boss Michael Dugher summed up his body’s view. This is the key point – yesterday’s vote was not an endpoint, it was the stage in a process that is designed to lead to good, stable legislation.

We’re not optimistic that the lobbying is going to be better natured in the run-up to September – if anything, it’s likely to be worse – but if effective, fit-for-purpose, modern copyright legislation is the goal, there is more work to be done in terms of understanding why so many MEPs voted to send the Copyright Directive back for further amendment.

The response can’t and won’t just be ‘how can we out-lobby Google?’ – it’s about re-crafting the argument to policymakers (and yes, if necessary, re-crafting parts of the proposals: the polarised lobbying process shouldn’t drown out some of the real concerns about possible side-effects of not-quite-honed-enough copyright law) to achieve that greater goal: copyright legislation that really does work for creators, for internet users and for the companies that can connect them in positive ways.

Stuart Dredge

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