Today is crunch time – or more accurately, the latest crunch time in a series of crunch times – for the proposed new European copyright directive. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) will be voting this morning on the directive, including its much-discussed Article 13. This would normally be seen as a rubber-stamping process to approve the final text of legislation hammered out by the ‘trilogue’ of the three main European bodies (the European Parliament, European Commission and Council of Europe).
It feels considerably more tense, though, following an uptick in lobbying for and against the proposed directive – and unrest within the music industry about how YouTube enlisted its community of creators and used promotional tools on its platform to campaign against the elements of the directive that it’s still unhappy with. The fact that MEPs will soon disappear off to their home countries to campaign in the upcoming European elections adds another element of uncertainty to today’s vote: how many politicians will be fretting that approving the directive will lose them votes?
We’ll be monitoring the parliament’s vote – we’re led to believe it will come late this morning UK-time (around 11.30am). But we’ll also remind you that if the directive is approved, that still isn’t the end of the story. If it is, then it will be down to each individual European Union member state to translate the directive into laws for their country – with scope for more arguments and lobbying in that process. Spare a thought, too, for the UK, where the increasingly-shambolic ‘Brexit’ process – the shambolic-ness of the process is about the only thing ‘leavers’ and ‘remainers’ can agree on right now – has created its own uncertainty for how, when (or even if?) the copyright directive will be implemented.
Two more things to think about, when the vote results come through. First: what’s the next step for the music industry and YouTube, given the tensions stirred up throughout the legislative process so far? What will the long-term relationship look like, within the parameters set by the directive’s approval (or rejection) today? How can trust be built? Although as we’ve said before, the battles in Brussels didn’t stop rightsholders and YouTube from partnering on the launch of YouTube Music, so there is already cooperation to build on.
Second: how will other territories around the world react to European politicians’ decision today? As we think about safe harbours, user-uploaded platforms and the ‘value gap’ debate in India, China, Africa and other areas, will Europe set an example to follow? That’s why today’s vote has ramifications well beyond the EU member states. All eyes on those MEPs – and the subsequent reactions from all sides.