Commission and Parliament in ‘secret talks’ on EU copyright directive

High-ranking representatives of the Commission's DG Connect will brief MEPs as part of an 'in camera' meeting today (12 February), after a contingent of members wrote to the EU executive with their concerns on guidance issued for the EU's copyright directive.

The Copyright Directive, which was adopted in April 2019, aims to provide legal protection and remuneration for content creators and rightsholders in the online economy. [Shutterstock]

High-ranking representatives of the European Commission’s DG Connect will brief EU lawmakers as part of an ‘in camera’ meeting on Friday (12 February), after a contingent of parliament members wrote to the EU executive to voice their concerns on guidance issued for the EU’s copyright directive.

Documents obtained by EURACTIV reveal that a cross-section of MEPs, predominantly from the two biggest groups, the European People’s Party and the Socialists, are not satisfied with the Commission’s advice issued on the transposition of Article 17 of the directive, which aims to ensure that online platforms no longer make copyright-infringing work available online.

Broadly, the rules, adopted in April 2019, aim to provide legal protection and remuneration for content creators and rightsholders in the online economy.

“The current approach to the Guidance would not properly reflect the agreement hardly achieved after long negotiations on Article 17 of the Copyright Directive,” the letter states.

“The latest response to Parliamentary questions on this matter by the Commission and recent public remarks made by members of DG Connect services have not helped to assuage these concerns,” the letter adds, pressing the Commission to attend talks with the Parliament.

Internal sources have confirmed to EURACTIV that Commission representatives including Director-General of DG Connect, Roberto Viola, and Giuseppe Abbamonte, responsible for media policy will attend the meeting, due to take place on Friday morning.

S&D MEP Iban García del Blanco will deliver opening remarks, and EPP’s Axel Voss, Parliament’s rapporteur for the directive, is also due to submit an intervention, along with other MEPs.

LEAK: German government edges towards agreement on copyright law

The German implementation of the European copyright reform is edging towards adoption, despite having been postponed from cabinet talks on Wednesday (27 January). The most recent draft, obtained by EURACTIV, once again strengthens rights for authors and publishers. EURACTIV Germany reports.

MEPs want clearer Article 17 guidance

The subject of the meeting will primarily be the Commission’s guidance on Article 17, which has proved to be one of the most contentious parts of the directive. Critics of the clause say it could result in platforms having to embed ‘upload filters’ into their systems, effectively vetting third-party content and potentially encroaching on the right to free speech and expression.

However, due to the vagueness of Article 17 in the final Copyright text, the Commission embarked on a series of consultations in the latter half of 2019 and early 2020 in order to clarify its implementation.

The EU executive then issued draft guidance as a result of the consultations last year, but there has been criticism that the guidance does not offer the clarity required for rightsholders.

The guidance came in for a backlash from some member states, including Croatia, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain, who penned a non-paper highlighting their worries that the guidance would not achieve the objectives originally set out by the Commission in supporting Europe’s rightsholders.

“By proposing new concepts such as ‘upload likely to be legitimate’ and suggesting, based on such concept, a modus operandi for the application of article 17 where instructions from rightsholders would simply be set aside in the context of the preventive measures, the document exceeds the purpose of the guidelines to be adopted by the Commission and raises very serious issues,” the letter from EU nations states.

Effectively, it appears that what MEPs want from Friday’s meeting with Commission representatives, is further assurances that the EU executive’s guidance on Article 17 will be sufficient enough to ensure that rightsholders across the bloc are awarded fair remuneration for their work.

Full transposition of the copyright directive into national legislation is required from member states by June 2021.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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