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Keeping up with the Copyright Directive

People across the EU have taken to the streets to protest against the controversial articles proposed in the directive

Today the draft Copyright Directive was approved by the committee 16 votes in favour, nine votes against, with no abstentions. The final vote in Parliament will take place during the 25-28 March II plenary session. (date to be confirmed).

EU copyright reform has been in progress for many years. In September 2016, the EU Commission proposed a new directive to update its copyright framework after years of public consultation. Since then, we have seen much negotiation and several amendments to the proposal. 

The final text is now agreed and will be put to the Parliamentary vote in the coming weeks. Keeping up with copyright reform can be tricky, so here is an overview:

What’s the latest?

On 13 February 2019, the European Parliament and the Council concluded the trilogue negotiations with a final proposed text for the new EU Copyright Directive. A press release confirmed that the Council had reached a provisional agreement with the European Parliament on a draft directive. The agreement was then submitted for confirmation by member states at the Council. On Wednesday 20 February, the Council of Ministers endorsed the agreement. And yesterday, 26 February the Draft Copyright Directive was approved by committee with 16 votes in favour, 9 votes against, with no abstentions. 

What will happen next?

For the directive to come into force, it needs to be put to the Parliament's plenary vote, where all 751 MEPs can vote to accept or reject the bill. The final vote in Parliament will be between 25-28 March.

With such a controversial proposal and the looming European Elections taking place in May 2019, it is hard to say which way the vote will swing. In the 'vote-reject' corner you will find the likes of Google and Facebook, who have been criticised for their campaigning but, Politico created a fascinating power matrix back in 2017 that puts these players in the top-right for loud and powerful. 

Italy, Finland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Poland voted against the deal. A joint statement was released declaring that, in their view, the final text fails to deliver adequately on the aims that the directive intended to achieve, namely enhance the good functioning of the internal market and to stimulate innovation, creativity, investment and production of new content, also in the digital environment.

According to Pledge, 23 members of the European Parliament have pledged to vote against the directive, including representatives one from the UK, three from Austria, one from Estonia, one from France, 11 from Germany, one from Italy, one from the Netherlands, one from Poland, one from Portugal, one from Sweden and one from Spain.

People across the EU have taken to the streets to protest against the controversial articles proposed in the directive and more are scheduled. More than 4,885,089 have signed an online petition

On the 'vote-accept' side, 30 organisations from across the cultural and creative sectors published a statement calling on EU member states and the European Parliament to adopt the text of the Copyright Directive as agreed in trilogue last week. GEMA Society for Musical Performance and Mechanical Reproduction Rights have also publicly supported the directive. 

The EU Commission from Ireland said that the new laws “will reinforce position of European authors & performers in the digital environment and enhance high-quality journalism in the EU.” In a press conference by Axel Voss (EPP, DE), rapporteur, and Sajjad Karim (ECR, UK) on the trilogue deal on the copyright directive for the digital single market, Karim claimed that the campaigns about the directive goes against the grain of a democratic nation.

The European Commission and the Inappropriate Blog Post...

Shortly after the trilogue agreement earlier in February, the European Commission posted a blog titled: The Copyright Directive: how the mob was told to save the dragon and slay the knight. The post was not well received.

The passive-aggressive blog was inevitably removed, but thanks to the internet you can still see a copy of what it said here. It has since been replaced by the following text: “This article published by the Commission services was intended to reply to concerns, but also to misinterpretations that often surround the copyright directive proposal. We acknowledge that its language and title were not appropriate and we apologise for the fact that it has been seen as offending. That is why we removed this article from our Medium account.”

MEP Timeo Wölken brought up the blog post during the JURI meeting on 18th February, saying: “It’s not an angry mob – it’s concerned young people who are worried about disappearing culture – and that is a major concern.” Apparently, EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel apologised for the blog post, stating that she had not authorized its publication. 

 Dr Hayleigh Bosher lectures in intellectual property law at Brunel Law School Image: CC/Dennis_Deutschkämer