Proposals for a draconian new European Union copyright directive have been rejected by MEPs today. But the battle over tougher laws to counter online copyright infringement will continue in September when debate on the directive will resume.
The vote comes just wo weeks after an EU committee voted 14 to nine to waive them through.
Specifically, MEPs voted by 318 to 278 to send the draft directive back to the drawing board over Article 11 and Article 13. The vote re-opens the draft directive for debate and, potentially, a radical re-write.
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, whose free-to-use, donation-supported website could be badly affected by the directive, hoped that a compromise could be reached before the directive returns for consideration in the autumn.
Article 11 would create a new rule that would have severely restricted the right to quote or even link to other articles online without paying for the privilege.
Article 13, meanwhile, would require all online content providers to rigorously police their platforms and to proactively takedown any copyrighted material under pain of stiff fines.
Great success: Your protests have worked! The European Parliament has sent the copyright law back to the drawing board. All MEPs will get to vote on #uploadfilters and the #linktax September 10-13. Now let's keep up the pressure to make sure we #SaveYourInternet! pic.twitter.com/VwqAgH0Xs5— Julia Reda (@Senficon) July 5, 2018
Moreover, tracking the progress of the directive has proved difficult since it was first proposed in September 2016, with the draft subject to multiple changes and revisions.
Article 11 reflects an idea that individual EU countries have sought to mandate over the years - including Germany, Belgium and Spain - all of them failing.
In Germany, the measure was aimed at Google News, requiring the internet giant to pay German newspapers for the snippets presented in the Google News search results. Instead, though, publishers opted-in without receiving payment as their traffic would've suffered as a result.
A similar regulation in Spain, meanwhile, resulted in fall in traffic to websites of between six and 14 per cent, driving Spanish readers to English language websites for their news, and causing a fall in advertising revenues estimated at around €10 million in the first year.
Article 13, meanwhile, is draconian that any website allowing users to post material will need some form of filtering in order to prevent copyrighted material from being uploaded. Moreover, it doesn't deal with false copyright claims, which are currently frequently used under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to take down perfectly legitimate content from websites.
Copyright compromise by JURI rapporteur @AxelVossMdEP was rejected in plenary - 278 voted for the draft and 318 voted against it. Next step is a discussion, amendments and vote in plenary of the European Parliament in September. #copyrightreform #copyright— Ásta Helgadóttir (@asta_fish) July 5, 2018
Intriguingly, perhaps, Article 13 makes no distinction between a web store selling copyrighted material and an ordinary internet user uploading a meme based on a copyrighted image.
"The article never uses the word "filter" or "filtering" anywhere in it. However, since the provider has to ensure the non-availability of infringing works, it is pretty clear that a filtering system would be required," according to one analysis.
It continues: "The article doesn't delve into the technical details of how the system would work. Instead, it focuses more on the transparency of it saying that the provider must":
‘Be transparent towards rightholders and shall inform rightholders of the measures employed, their implementation, as well as when relevant, shall periodically report on the use of the works and other subject-matter.'
SACEM, the French society of authors, composers and publishers of music, described the vote as "a setback". David el Sayegh said: "This vote is a setback but it is not the end. SACEM remains dedicated to ensuring that creators are recognised and remunerated for the value of their work.
"We will not be discouraged by today's decision and will continue to mobilise the support of musicians and music lovers across the world, in the hopes of reaching a fair agreement with these platforms that will safeguard the future of the music industry.
"We are confident that the European Parliament will eventually support a framework that fully acknowledges the rights of creators in the digital landscape of the 21st century."
Other supporters of the copyright measures include struggling artists like Annie Lennox and Sir Paul McCartney, and German MEP Axel Voss.
The Open Rights Group's Jim Killock also cautioned that the plans hadn't been defeated, once and for all.
"Round one of the Robo-Copyright wars is over. The EU Parliament has recognised that machine censorship of copyright material is not an easy and simple fix," said Killock.
He continued: "They've heard the massive opposition, including Internet blackouts and 750,000 people petitioning them against these proposals."
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