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MEPs debate safe harbour reform… again

By | Published on Wednesday 12 September 2018

European Commission

Debate is underway in the European Parliament on the draft new copyright directive, with a vote expected imminently.

Much of the debate is focused on the two most controversial proposals, which includes the safe harbour reform that the music industry has been lobbying hard to secure for several years now. This reform, if it goes through, will increase the copyright liabilities of user-upload platforms like YouTube. Who, needless to say, would prefer to keep their liabilities down super low.

The music industry says that reform of this kind will end a damaging distortion of the digital music market caused by YouTube exploiting the safe harbour in order to pay much lower royalties than its rivals. YouTube owner Google says the changes will break the internet.

When MEPs last considered the directive in July they voted it down, in no small part because of rampant (and, the music industry reckons, misleading) lobbying on the part of the tech sector. Which that in mind, this time the music community has gone into overdrive to try and secure enough votes in favour of the directive and its safe harbour reforms.

During today’s proceedings, the Parliament was due to consider eight possible reworks of the safe harbour reforming article thirteen, including a proposal to remove it entirely, and other rewrites of the text that were considered back in July. The rework preferred by most of the music industry – which is the closest to the July draft – is the last one set to be discussed.

Among the musical types chit chatting about the whole thing ahead of today’s vote has been that there Wyclef Jean, who has urged lawmakers to “embrace and improve the internet, rather than attempt to block and hinder it”. By that he meant they should vote down article thirteen. The former Fugee clearly didn’t get the memo. Or maybe he got Google’s memo. In an op-ed for Politico he added: “Don’t tear down the building, be the landlord”.

Responding to Jean’s intervention, the boss of indie label repping IMPALA, Helen Smith, urged MEPs to ignore the music star and think instead of the wider music community. “Think of the artists you haven’t even heard of yet and decide whether you want a level playing field for all”. Just to be clear, IMPALA’s position is that it’s their preferred version of article thirteen that will level that field of play.

There’s a chance that by the time you read this article the vote will have already happened. We’ll regroup here in the CMU Daily tomorrow to see how it went and – if it goes in the music industry’s favour – to find out if anyone is THRILLED about it.