MEPs approve European Copyright Directive (including Article 13) – 348 votes to 274


The European Copyright Directive has been approved by members of the European Parliament. In a vote this morning, MEPs approved the new legislation: 348 cast their votes in favour, while 274 voted against.

The legislation must now be implemented by individual member states of the European Union, including the much-discussed ‘Article 13’ section – which, confusingly, is now Article 17 in the legislation – covering internet platforms with user-uploaded content – a category that includes YouTube, but also a range of social networks and websites.

Reaction is already coming in from the various industries affected by (and campaigning for or against) the proposed directive. We’ll be updating this story regularly with the latest views.

Starting with global music-industry body the IFPI. “We thank lawmakers for their efforts in navigating a complex environment to pass a Directive with noteworthy implications for the content community.  This world-first legislation confirms that User-Upload Content platforms perform an act of communication to the public and must either seek authorisation from rightsholders or ensure no unauthorised content is available on their platforms. The Directive also includes a ‘stay down’ provision requiring platforms to keep unlicensed content down – another global first,” said CEO Frances Moore.

“We now look forward to the implementation stage, where we will work with the EU’s Member States to ensure the Directive is transposed into national law in a manner fully consistent with its aim and key principles of European and international law,” added Moore.

YouTube’s official statement actually welcomed the final version of the directive as “improved” but expressed concern about the “unintended consequences” of the new legislation – while also pointing to the fact that it’s individual countries who’ll be actually implementing it:

A Google spokesperson provided this separate (but similar) quote to Music Ally: “The Copyright Directive is improved but will still lead to legal uncertainty and will hurt Europe’s creative and digital economies. The details matter, and we look forward to working with policy makers, publishers, creators and rights holders as EU member states move to implement these new rules.”

Global music-publishers body ICMP was also quick off the blocks with its response statement. “Four years of titanic tussling later, our work to solve the ‘Value Gap’ now begins a new stage after this
vote. Namely, to ensure that those who make the music make a fair return. ICMP will keep working
with all European governments to transpose this law appropriately. ‘Safe Harbours’ must not become
archipelagos for platforms to devalue music. Today redoubles our determination in that mission,” said director general John Phelan.

ICMP board chair Chris Butler also pointed out that the new directive is not just about Article 13. “We are grateful for important provisions supporting songwriters and composers, recognising that music must be given its rightful value,” he said. “We’re particularly pleased to secure sector specific safeguards for music publishers in Articles 4 and 12. These battles were hard-fought, amount to crucial wins for music in Europe and are particularly important for our independent publisher members.”

MEP Julia Reda, who has been a prominent critic of the directive, expressed her sorrow:

Reda added that a proposal that MEPs be able to vote on individual amendments (“like the proposal to delete #Article13”) was rejected by a majority of five votes. Reda has also promised to link to the list of which MEPs voted for and against the directive, when it’s made available.

Crispin Hunt, chair of songwriters body BASCA, offered a topical Fortnite reference in his tweeted reaction to the vote:

Global collecting-societies body CISAC has also put out a statement by its director-general Gadi Oron. “The European Union has laid the foundation for a better and fairer digital environment – one in which creators will be in a stronger position to negotiate fair license fees when their works are used by big online platforms,” he said.

“This is a hugely important achievement not just for Europe, but for the millions of creators which CISAC represents across the world. We are grateful to all those in the European institutions who have tirelessly worked on this directive and hope that it will lead the way for countries outside the EU to follow.”

Dr Harald Heker, CEO of German collecting society GEMA, also welcomed this morning’s vote. “European Parliament has declared itself in favour of strengthening the culture and creative industries. The parliamentarians thus have laid the foundation for a contemporary copyright. The decision emits a very important signal, namely that Europe is in a position to create fair rules for the digital world. The new Directive strengthens and protects creators in many areas. In this context, the overall objective of Article 17 (former Article 13) is that content protected by copyright can be made available on online platforms. In return, creators are to receive a fair remuneration for the exploitation of their works,” he said.

“We thank all European Parliamentarians who have stood up for the Directive over the last years. The next step is that it has to be implemented by national legislators: We do sincerely hope that this is going to take place in a constructive setting. Critical voices must not be tuned out. In turn, positive elements and improvements of the Directive must be communicated more clearly as it has been the case so far. We would like to accompany this important dialogue constructively and objectively.”

Privacy campaigner Max Schrems provided a reminder that the EU member states will face scrutiny as they implement the legislation:

That’s a theme also taken up by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has also campaigned against the proposed directive. In a blog post, the EFF described the vote as a “stunning rejection” and predicted what might happen next.

“There’s now little that can stop these provisions from becoming the law of the land across Europe. It’s theoretically possible that the final text will fail to gain a majority of member states’ approval when the European Council meets later this month, but this would require at least one key country to change its mind. Toward that end, German and Polish activists are already re-doubling their efforts to shift their government’s key votes,” it claimed.

“If that attempt fails, the results will be drawn-out, and chaotic. Unlike EU Regulations like the GDPR, which become law on passage by the central EU institutions, EU Directives have to be transposed: written into each member country’s national law. Countries have until 2021 to transpose the Copyright Directive, but EU rarely keeps its members to that deadline, so it could take even longer.”

Tech body EDiMA, whose members include Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Snap and Twitter, has also criticised the directive’s approval.

“This legislation does not achieve what it set out to do – to modernise copyright for the digital era,” said director-general Siada El Ramly. “Although we acknowledge the final text has improved significantly from earlier drafts, we still fundamentally disagree with it, as it undermines other EU law, tries to force a licensing business model on open platforms, and weakens the fundamental privacy and freedom of speech rights of EU citizens.”

EDiMA is also arguing – and this is something we suspect we’ll be hearing more about in the coming weeks – that “Article 13 continues to be technically unworkable because it imposes a monitoring obligation on platforms, in conflict with the e-Commerce Directive which states that that there should be none”. That refers to existing legislation in Europe, and a potential conflict with the new directive.

Another tech body, the CCIA, has also criticised the approval:

Music bodies, however, are celebrating this morning’s vote. “This is a landmark day for Europe’s creators and citizens, and a significant step towards a fairer internet. Platforms facilitate a unique relationship between artists and fans, and this will be given a boost as a result of this directive. It will have a ripple effect world wide,” said indie body Impala’s executive chair Helen Smith.

“The fact that the artists spoke amid so much anti-copyright harassment online is impressive. Parliamentarians did not let themselves be intimated and had the courage to vote this text through. Thanks to all who were involved in crafting such a balanced outcome. It is now for member states to reconfirm their approval of the directive.”

“This is the first legislation anywhere in the world that recognises there needs to be a better balance in the relationship between user-upload platforms and the creative community, whose content turbocharges those services,” said BPI boss Geoff Taylor.

“The value gap distorts the music ecosystem and holds back the growth of the UK’s creative industries. The priority now must be to ensure the UK implementation of the Directive achieves the goal of closing that gap, and we look forward to working with Government and all parties to that end.”

“This is a once in a generation opportunity to recalibrate Europe’s digital economy to ensure artists are fairly remunerated,” added Annabella Coldrick, CEO of the Music Managers Forum. “Alongside Article 13, today’s Directive also offers a raft of changes that will empower artists and creators, ensuring they have greater transparency and leverage in their licensing and contractual partnerships. For the creative community, these amendments in Articles 14-16 are also of the utmost importance.”

Paul Pacifico, CEO of UK indie body AIM, offered a statement including this: “We are now a step closer to achieving real balance in the online space for artists and the businesses that support them with those who run the platforms and profit from creative content and we look forward to building this system together.”

He also raised the Brexit issue. “The UK government has been extremely supportive of the British creative community in the evolution of the EU copyright directive and we will encourage and support a successful implementation of the directive into UK law, irrespective of what happens with Brexit.”

(Pacifico has also tangled with Julia Reda on live radio this afternoon, judging by her tweet:

Musician Jean-Michel Jarre (who’s also president of CISAC) is also chuffed with today’s news. “This is a really important decision that has enormous implications worldwide. It recognises that that a 21st century internet needs a 21st century level of protection for creators,” he said.

“It confirms that the big tech companies which use creative content must be made to negotiate fairly with the creators who fill their pipes and cables with their works. And it sets up a more just, balanced and responsible partnership between the creative community and the vast and powerful technology goliaths that increasingly dominate our digital world.”

Industry lawyers have also been offering their takes on what today’s vote means. “Artists and creators will hail the passing of the directive as a real victory for their right to be fairly paid for their creations. However the effect of the text of the directive as passed could at the same time have very concerning and unintended consequences for vast swathes of online services, not simply those operating in music or news,” said Raffaella De Santis, Associate at Harbottle & Lewis.

“This outcome is unpopular with digital services and importantly, many European voters. The key focus now will be on how the directive is implemented across the EU over the next two years, and care will need to be taken to ensure that smaller services are not disproportionately disadvantaged by measures which are in reality designed to curtail the formerly unchecked power of the tech giants.”

Written by: Stuart Dredge