The next hurdle for the proposed new European copyright directive to become law – Article 13 included – is a vote by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) later this month. It’s clear that lobbying from all sides of the debate around the legislation is going to continue up to the last minute. Yesterday, Google made its latest public contribution, with a blog post by its SVP of global affairs Kent Walker.
Interestingly, there is praise for the current text of the directive, as agreed by the three main European political bodies last month. “The latest text improves the version adopted by the European Parliament in September 2018. Take Article 13. Platforms making a good-faith effort to help rights holders identify and protect works should not face liability for every piece of content a user uploads, especially when neither the rights-holder nor the platform specifically knows who actually owns that content. The final text includes language that recognises that principle,” wrote Walker.
Yes, you can see the ‘but’ coming a mile off. “At the same time, the directive creates vague, untested requirements, which are likely to result in online services over-blocking content to limit legal risk. And services like YouTube accepting content uploads with unclear, partial, or disputed copyright information could still face legal threats,” he continued. “The text needs to be clearer to reduce legal uncertainty about how rights holders should cooperate to identify their content – giving platforms reference files, as well as copyright notices with key information (like URLs) to facilitate identifying and removing infringing content, while not removing legitimate material.”
This is a carefully-crafted message of constructive criticism, couched within a stance that “we support updating copyright rules for this digital age”. Google’s fiercest critics within the music industry will, unsurprisingly, see this as the velvet glove covering Google’s iron-hard determination to water down the legislation as much as possible. We expect to see music bodies making their final case to MEPs in the coming days and weeks too (and we’ll be reporting on those as we have Walker’s post). It all does highlight the fact, though, that the devil really is in the detail of this particular legislation: even small changes can have big (and sometimes unforseen) impacts.