MEPs have voted to pass the much-discussed Article 13 of the European Copyright Directive. Of the 751 politicians voting on the directive today in Strasbourg, 438 voted in favour, 226 against and 39 abstained.

This section of the proposed legislation would make internet platforms liable for copyrighted content uploaded by their users:

“Article 13 creates an obligation on information society service providers storing and giving access to large amounts of works and other subject-matter uploaded by their users to take appropriate and proportionate measures to ensure the functioning of agreements concluded with rightholders and to prevent the availability on their services of content identified by rightholders in cooperation with the service providers”

This would remove the ‘safe harbours’ that have been a long-term bugbear for music rightsholders, who see them as responsible for the ‘value gap’ between the music royalties paid by platforms like YouTube, and those that do not benefit from safe harbours, like Spotify and Apple Music.

Critics of Article 13 argue that it would damage key principles of free expression online by forcing platforms to filter anything that might be copyrighted content, while also damaging the chances of small internet startups to compete with giants like Google/YouTube, who can afford to spend tens of millions of dollars building tools like the latter’s ContentID to comply with the legislation.

The news is already being celebrated by music rightsholders and their representative bodies, but will come as a blow to the technology companies and activists who had been campaigning against the proposal.

Independent body Impala was one of the first to hail the news, describing it as a “great result for creators”. Boss Helen Smith had published an opinion piece earlier this week defending the proposed legislation. “Nobody in our community is suggesting ‘tearing down the internet.’ What we are asking lawmakers to do is to make sure that it works for everyone,” she wrote.

Google provided this statement to Music Ally following the vote. “People want access to quality news and creative content online,” said a spokesperson. “We’ve always said that more innovation and collaboration are the best way to achieve a sustainable future for the European news and creative sectors, and we’re committed to continued close partnership with these industries.”

[Also passed today was Article 11, which focuses more on the news side of things, or the ‘link tax’ as critics labeled it.)

MEP Julia Reda, who had been one of the prominent critics of the proposals, summarised the fears in a tweet posted after the vote was carried.

It’s very important to understand that today’s vote does not make Article 13 or the overall European Copyright Directive law. This is about agreeing the European Parliament’s approved text for the directive, which then goes to the European Commission and its member states, with the reported goal of becoming final, passed European legislation sometime in 2019.

There is thus still potential for the text to change; for the requirements to evolve; for more lobbying both behind the scenes and very publicly on the internet. Today is certainly a victory for music rightsholders within that wider context, but it’s not the end of the story yet. Global music body the IFPI acknowledged that in its statement this afternoon.

“IFPI joins others in the creative community in thanking the European Parliament for its work on this proposal in the most difficult of circumstances and congratulates Rapporteur Axel Voss MEP on an outstanding performance,” said chief executive Frances Moore. “We now look forward to working with the three institutions in the forthcoming trilogue to ensure the Value Gap is effectively closed.”

[Trilogue? Here’s a definition: “Informal tripartite meetings on legislative proposals between representatives of the Parliament, the Council and the Commission. Their purpose is to reach a provisional agreement on a text acceptable to both the Council and the Parliament.”]

Both sides are training their attention on this next step, however:

“We expect the next step in trilogue to make progress quickly and an agreement on a strong and balanced text to be found. The eyes of the world are on Europe to make online platforms more accountable and set new standards for creators online,” added Impala’s Smith in a statement following the vote.

We’ll be covering reactions to the news in the coming hours here, so check back on this story regularly for updates. For now, here are some more reactions from both sides of the Article 13 debate:




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Stuart Dredge

Music Ally's Head of Insight

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