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European Commission lays into the tech sector over copyright directive lobbying, as everyone else comments on the final draft

By | Published on Friday 15 February 2019

European Commission

It seemed like everyone had something to say about the European Copyright Directive yesterday, following the news that the European Commission, European Parliament and EU Council had agreed a final single version of the copyright reforming document via their so called trilogue talks. The directive, as you know, includes the safe habour reforming article thirteen and a bunch of measures designed to increase the rights of artists and songwriters.

Of course, I say “everyone”. I mean every group or organisation representing the music community or the tech sector. My Great Aunt Marge was suspiciously quiet about it all. Peterborough City Council is yet to issue a statement. And I checked every white board at every tube station in London – there wasn’t one witty poem about article thirteen.

Although also commenting was the European Commission itself, which took to Medium to tell Google, YouTube, Facebook and all those fractious techie types (though presumably not Medium) that they can well and truly fuck off. “EU to end the internet?” Fuck off. “Europe to ban all memes?” Fuck off. “Censorship machines?” Yeah, you got it, fuck off.

Not my words, by the way, but the words of the European Commission. Well, OK, my words, its sentiment. “We know from recent elections and referendums that simple memorable slogans –  however untrue or unobtainable  – can go a long way to winning over hearts, minds and voters”, the blog post noted (I wonder what referendum it could be referring to?). “Never let the truth get in the way of a catchy slogan”, it also mused.

The blog post then argued that the directive is simply about making copyright fit for the digital age. And also levelling the playing field so that tech companies that benefit financially from the content and creativity of others can’t force those content makers and creators into unfair deals.

Taking aim at lobbying tactics employed by the tech sector as the copyright directive has slowly worked its way through the motions, the Commission wrote: “It appears as if the largest search and video platforms in the world are afraid of regulation – despite having overwhelming dominance on the internet. Furthermore, there is ample evidence that ‘big technology’ has even ‘created’ grassroots campaigns against the copyright directive in order to make it look and sound as if the EU is acting against the ‘will of the people'”.

Not so, the EC argues, which insists that “unlike Google and Facebook, the EU is answerable to the public and to democratically elected politicians. As with most EU legislation, the text must be agreed by a majority of member states and voted upon by MEPs in the European Parliament. So next time, when you get a sponsored message on your timeline, which says something like ‘the EU will kill the world wide web as we know it’, stop, pause and consider for a moment. Ask yourself: Cui Bono? Who really benefits from this message or this wider negative campaign?”.

Tough talking. Though in the interest of balance, here’s what Julia Reda MEP, the most vocal opponent within the European Parliament to the directive – and especially article thirteen (and the also controversial article eleven) – had to say shortly after the final draft was confirmed on Wednesday.

“The history of this law is a shameful one”, she wrote on her blog. “From the very beginning, the purpose of articles eleven and thirteen was never to solve clearly-defined issues in copyright law with well-assessed measures, but to serve powerful special interests, with hardly any concern for the collateral damage caused”.

“In the relentless pursuit of this goal”, she went on, “concerns by independent academics, fundamental rights defenders, independent publishers, start-ups and many others were ignored. At times, confusion was spread about crystal-clear contrary evidence. Parliament negotiator Axel Voss defamed the unprecedented protest of millions of internet users as ‘built on lies’ … it took efforts equally herculean and sisyphean across party lines to prevent the text from turning out even worse than it now is”.

So there you go. The full EU Council and European Parliament still need to vote on the final draft before it becomes law. Meanwhile, here are some music types saying things:

Helen Smith, Executive Chair of pan-European indie labels trade group IMPALA…

“We need to see the final text, but this legislation will be the first time anywhere in the world that there is absolute confirmation that user-upload services are covered by copyright and need a licence. In line with the WIN Fair Digital Deals Declaration adopted over three years ago, IMPALA also supports the provisions in the directive on transparency and remuneration for authors and performers”.

“The EU institutions have done a great job reaching this compromise in time. Last week we raised the alarm on the risks of moving ahead without improvements to the text and we understand these concerns were heard. All those who contributed their views, whatever side of the debate they are on, played an important role. There are a few more steps before this reform becomes law and we count on all sectors to unite in support of this balanced text and ensure it is finally adopted”.

Paul Pacifico, CEO of the UK’s Association Of Independent Music…

“We are pleased and relieved to hear that the EU has achieved an effective and well-balanced version of the copyright directive and would like to thank the EU parliamentarians, member states, institutions and committees for all of their hard work in making this possible”.

“Reports indicate that the final draft agreed last night in trilogue demonstrates that opinions from all sides have been heard, expertly weighed and incorporated to deliver a strong workable compromise text that enables the market to function fairly and more effectively in the digital age and therefore better protect the creatives at the heart of European culture and its creative industries”.

The UK’s Council Of Music Makers…

“The CMM commends the positive progress made on this vital piece of legislation for music makers. Music makers bring untold joy and entertainment to the masses. They are significant contributors to culture, as well as providing a grand boost to the economy beyond most other sectors”.

“The CMM believes that the full package of the proposed copyright directive as a whole aims to support our community, modernise the industry, encourage a healthier market with fairness and transparency, and promote a sustainable, innovative, balanced music business with music makers at its heart. This ambition is vital in ensuring music makers are clearly and adequately remunerated for their work”.

“We have supported the positive activity of our UK and European counterparts on this matter and lobbied at home and in Brussels, to ensure that our message is heard on the importance of the copyright directive as an opportunity to modernise the laws and commercial landscape governing how music makers get paid and how fans engage with music”.

Robert Ashcroft, CEO of UK collecting society PRS For Music…

“After five years of hard work, the news that we have a final text is a welcome relief for all involved. This directive has generated an unprecedented level of debate and a wave of misinformation from the open internet lobby, so I commend all of those who have battled through it to arrive at a text to put to the European Parliament”.

“Our mission has only ever been to achieve a fair and functioning digital market and, as a result, fair reward for creators. Subject to final scrutiny of the text and the forthcoming vote in Parliament it looks today as though we are going to achieve our aim”.

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