Copyright rules will turn the EU into a French digital colony

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

epa07464175 Demonstrators take part in a protest in front of the European Parliament as Members of the European Parliament debate on modifications to EU copyright reforms in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, 26 March 2019. EPA-EFE/PATRICK SEEGER

France, with its strict regulations of digital markets and its industries, has been allowed to drive the oppressive changes in copyright that are now about to be European law. It is not too late to save European citizens from these reforms that will do serious damage to the internet, writes Amelia Andersdotter.

Amelia Andersdotter is a former MEP for the Swedish Pirate Party

The EU copyright reform has not resulted in the modernized framework for culture and internet that the EU needs, in spite of the European Commission’s promises in 2014. Instead, it has turned into a competition between those who seek to find innovative ways of insulting young Europeans who, in spite of France, have tried to make their vision of a connected, common future known.

Sweden better prepared for copyright discussions than other EU countries. We have a relatively strong IT sector, with fairly good competition between our internet service providers, and also we lived through strong confrontations between the copyright sector and the population as far back as 2006-2009.

That’s why it’s easy to feel sympathetic with those young Germans, Czechs, Poles and Dutch people who’ve had to suffer through humiliation and defeat by an angry, powerful industrial complex in the European Parliament.

It is uncomfortable to be at the receiving end of insults like “paid demonstrators”, “zombies”, “bots”, “terrorists” or “jihadists”. Some elected parliamentarians have even had to suffer accusations that their hesitance to follow the lobby means they’re a “murderer”. This is a colourful, aggressive use of language which we often, except in copyright, manage to avoid in Sweden. It is certainly no language upon which to build Europe.

But the big copyright problem of the EU is France, and we have to talk about this. It is France that seeks to be protectionist and stops a European copyright. It is in France that powerful special interests have been allowed to merge with the state apparatus.

According to German newspaper FAZ, it was France who forced Germany into a deal of draconian upload filters in exchange for Nordstream II, the controversial gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea.

And due to the inability of members of the EU parliament to push buttons the way they intend (as many as 13 MEPs said that they had misvoted during the copyright vote, and had they not, the outcome of the vote would have been different) it now looks almost
certain that the EU will end up a French digital colony.

France, the country without a successful IT business. France, which has a tax on Amazon to save its small bookshops. France, the country where you cannot photograph the Eiffel Tower or graffiti. France, the country where the search engine Qwant is known by many.

Parliaments and governments around Europe still have the chance to prevent this from happening. It’s not just for the sake of young people who have been attacked and smeared relentlessly by their political establishment, but also because whatever it is that France is doing, it’s not working.

Is Nordstream II really worth the price of having special interests win by insult? Would it not be better for the long-term development of the EU, and of Germany, and their security and economic interests, to avoid creating this conflict with the European people?

For people like myself, who want to believe in the EU, it is most difficult to defend the merits of the European project exactly when the lobby-euros and the French take us all on a ride that obviously does not lead forward.

We do not need a French culture, but a cross-border European culture. We need a cultural sector that dares look towards the future.

And we do not need a French internet, but an internet where everyone, regardless of where they are based in the EU, can feel at home. The world has only a limited amount of uniting, cross-border projects constructed entirely after the fall of the wall in 1989 – but the internet is such a project. It is time someone told the French government.

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