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Tech lobby ramps up campaign against safe harbour reform as key votes on EU copyright reform begin 

By | Published on Wednesday 20 June 2018

European Commission

The JURI committee of the European Parliament has been discussing the proposed amendments to the somehow-still-being-negotiated draft European Copyright Directive this morning. The voting finished in the last hour approving an amended version of the directive.

As the EU’s Parliament and Council both get to the final stages of negotiating amendments to this major piece of copyright reform, there has been a flurry of last minute campaigning from all sides, but especially the tech lobby. Campaigning which has resulted in a steady stream of copyright-centric articles in the tech press, and which has filled the average MEP’s inbox many times over, like GDPR Day every day for several weeks.

The tech side’s campaigning has mainly focused on articles eleven and thirteen, the former increasing the rights of news providers, and the latter being the safe harbour reforming measures that the music industry has been lobbying really hard to secure. Both articles were passed this morning.

The late-in-the-day push from critics of articles eleven and thirteen has resulted in plenty of posts on the social networks, and various tech blogs and websites, declaring that – through the copyright directive – the media and entertainment industries are going to “ruin the internet”. Or – on a few pro-Brexit blogs – that “the EU is going to ruin the internet”.

Of course it’s right to be concerned about the unintended consequences of any new regulations. But for the media and entertainment industries, both articles eleven and thirteen are about ensuring that those who invest time and money into creating content have the control over their work that copyright is meant to provide. And to stop web giants which claim to be mere distribution networks but which appear to want to be content platforms from building media empires on the back of other people’s work.

The highly vocal campaigning from all sides is likely to continue as the directive goes through the final stages. In theory, once approved by the JURI committee, the proposals can go through to what is called the trilogue phase, when Parliament, Council and the European Commission discuss all the proposals and amendments that have been made and then produce a single final draft of the directive that incorporates all of them.

However, MEPs can force the draft that has been approved by the JURI committee to a full vote of the European Parliament before the trilogue phase begins. It’s known German MEP Julia Reda, a member of the Pirate Party, will seek to do just that. 10% of MEPs would need to support that call to force the full vote.

Assuming that happens, the current draft would go before the full European Parliament next month. Only once the Parliament had passed the current draft can the trilogue phase begin.

So, expect plenty more value gap shouting from the music industry’s lobbyists in the coming weeks, if only to drown out all the “you’re going to kill the internet” hyperbole being dished out by the tech lobby. Who knew people could get so passionate about copyright law!