• Copyright proposal returns to lawmakers for more amendments
• Outcome of vote further delays legislative process into fall
The European Parliament rejected proposed changes to copyright rules that could have made major internet players such as Google and Facebook Inc. legally liable for the content that users upload to their platforms.
A key committee of European lawmakers had agreed on the new proposed rules in June, but the parliamentary vote in Strasbourg July 5 instead created a hurdle for creators and publishers seeking better remuneration for the use of their work online.
“I regret that a majority of [members of European Parliament] did not support the position, which I and the legal affairs committee have been advocating,” said Axel Voss, the lead lawmaker in the committee on the copyright file.
The committee had supported new EU copyright rules that could force web platforms to actively filter out copyrighted content from users’ uploads if rights holders don’t grant them a license. In addition, they had backed granting publishers new legal rights to seek compensation for snippets of articles that Alphabet Inc.’s Google and other news aggregators post online.
Copyright holders for music, images, texts and other content say the new rules are needed to help them negotiate better compensation from big web companies. Internet activists and online platforms say the rules could restrict the freedom of expression online if user uploads have to first be screened.
The proposal now returns to lawmakers for more amendments before they vote again after the summer, further delaying the legislative process, which has dragged on since the European Commission, the bloc’s executive body, first issued its proposal in 2016.
Voss said he was ready to defend the committee’s position, which he said took months of careful deliberations, and was prepared to convince his colleagues ahead of the vote in September.
But Voss and other committee members face a tight time-frame as most EU officials leave Brussels for the month of August. The outcome of the July 5 vote also suggests lawmakers will be looking for more significant changes that water down the obligations on web platforms before a majority of the parliament would accept the proposed rules.
Once the European Parliament finalizes its position, it will then enter into final negotiations with the commission and EU member states, which both support the obligations for tech firms, before the rules become law.
In a statement following the vote, Impala, an association representing independent music companies, said the parliamentarians had been subject to a misinformation campaign, adding it was “confident that in September the parliament will reach a conclusion and secure a fair and sustainable internet.“
The legislation has faced intense lobbying by creators, artists and publishers on one side and web platforms, and internet activists on the other. Some parliamentarians, including Voss, complained their inboxes were clogged and that they were receiving aggressive phone calls ahead of the July 5 vote. The creative sector drew on The Beatles singer Paul McCartney, who had supported the copyright rules in a letter.
In a statement, Facebook said, “We strongly believe in the importance of protecting copyright online. We hope that the debate going forward will focus on the original mission of protecting copyright.” Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The lawmakers July 5 rejected the committee’s position, with 318 lawmakers voting against, 278 voting in favor, and 31 who abstained.
Edima, a trade association representing online platforms, including Google, Facebook and Amazon.com Inc., said it was pleased with the result.
“Today’s vote represents a victory for democracy and evidence-based policy making in the European Parliament,” it said.
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