Debate Rages Over EU Copyright Proposal Ahead of Vote

A European Union plan to require online platforms to filter out infringing content backed by rights holders is under fire from tech groups.

The European Parliament’s legal affairs committee will vote on the EU’s Copyright Directive June 20, and a wider parliamentary vote on the new copyright rules will follow July 5. Both sides are lobbying EU officials in advance of the votes.

The measure could pass by a razor-thin majority, but the votes are not locked down, Nona Parvanova, member of the Council of EuroISPA, told Bloomberg Law in an email.

“One thing is certain: all the interested stakeholders will be extremely active on this file until the very last minute before the vote,” she said.

‘Negative impact’

Forcing companies such as Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube to police copyright infringement through filtering systems “would restrict the ability of Internet users to consume content” such as videos, music, GIFs and memes, according to a statement by the Brussels-based coalition Copyright for Creativity.

The coalition, which includes the European ISP Association (EuroISPA), wants to scuttle Article 13 of the directive. Its web campaign, #savetheinternet, calls for content creators and the public to email or tweet at their European Parliament representatives to urge them to vote against the measure.

Lawmakers fail to understand “the extensive negative impact Article 13 would have not only on the large, multinational corporations which this provision targets, but also on the majority of the internet ecosystem, mostly comprised of small and medium size providers,” Maximilian Schubert, EuroISPA’s vice president, told Bloomberg Law in an email.

Schubert said ISPs could be held accountable for any violations if any infringing content would bypass the filters.

“This might lead to dramatic restrictions in ISPs’ terms of service, which could in turn engender a situation where potentially illegal content as well as controversial legal content might be barred from being shared online,” he said.

Closing the ‘value gap’

But Eddy Leviten, Director General of the U.K.’s Alliance for Intellectual Property, said the proposed rules would allow technology “to prevent misuse of works owned by others.”

“Those same platforms are highly protective of their own IP, often in the form of patents, so they should also respect the IP of others too and help to remunerate creators fairly for the use of their work, where creators allow for use,” he told Bloomberg Law in an email. Leviten’s group represents audiovisual, music, video games, sports and business software companies.

Leviten argued “content drives users and traffic and that then drives advertising which brings vast sums to the owners of the services. It therefore only seems fair that a proportion of those revenues should flow back to the content creators.”

The new rules would help ensure right holders are paid for content uploaded on YouTube and video-sharing website Vimeo Inc., John Phelan, head of EU Communications & Public Affairs at the Brussels-based arm of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), told Bloomberg Law in an interview.

The reforms “address licensing disparities and the value gap”, he said, referring to the growing mismatch between the value that digital platforms such as YouTube pay creators compared to subscription-based streaming services such as Spotify, Amazon Music Unlimited and Deezer.

The IFPI also has been lobbying EU lawmakers. The group wrote an open letter to the European Council urging it to support the new rules. The letter was co-signed by 26 other groups representing Europe’s authors, journalists, TV producers, football leagues, publishers, filmmakers and photo agencies.

“The proposed law should seek to correct the ongoing unfairness in the marketplace by establishing legal certainty and ensuring effective protection of creators and producers’ rights vis-à-vis user uploaded content services,” the groups said in the April 12 letter.

YouTube did not respond to Bloomberg Law’s requests for comment.