Whether they are citizens, politicians, businesses or civil society, the European copyright reform approved in Strasbourg has received unwavering support in France. EURACTIV France reports.
Uncertainty surrounded the vote on copyright reform until the very end. Having been initially rejected by MEPs in July, it was eventually approved by lawmakers on 12 September by a large majority.
The reform has had a long legislative process with an uncertain outcome, during which the bill’s supporters and opponents have fought hard over issues of internet freedom. But on the French side of things at least, the front line has always been clear.
“Along with defending the funding of the common agricultural policy, copyright is one of the rare subjects where the French from all political affiliations are in agreement,” a source at the European Parliament acknowledged.
Almost French unanimity
Wednesday’s vote largely reflected this consensus. Out of the 74 French MEPs, only Green MEP Pascal Durand voted against the directive.
While Durand went it alone on the vote, the other French Green MEPs chose to abstain, being politically closer to the internet libertarians opposed to the reform, such as Julia Reda, the only Pirate Party MEP within the Greens. Two MEPs from GUE (European United Left) also abstained.
“Let’s try to understand that, with this bill, it’s the freedom of the enitre digital sector that we risk calling into question. Let’s not give robots and artificial intelligence the power to monitor and censor the internet,” Durand said during the debate in Strasbourg on 11 September.
“With this vote, the balance of power between authors and giants of the digital sector, who make huge profits without fairly remunerating artists, has been profoundly rebalanced,” socialist MEPs Virginie Rozière and Pervenche Berès said.
“The Parliament has shown today that between the aggressive lobbying of platforms and the defence of culture, it chose culture,” said European People’s Party lawmaker Marc Joulaud.
Unusually, French president personally welcomed the directive vote on his Twitter account. “I am proud that France has been at the forefront of this battle,” he underlined.
Ahead of the vote, Emmanuel Macron had already called for MEPs to adopt the bill, describing the upcoming sequence as a “fundamental battle” and asking for Europe “to live up to its culture”.
Une grande avancée pour l’Europe : le droit d’auteur protège, c’est notre liberté, notre information libre, notre création culturelle qui sont reconnues. Je suis fier que la France ait été à la pointe de ce combat.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) September 12, 2018
Representatives of copyright holders and French newspaper publishers, who carried out active lobbying for the directive’s adoption, welcomed the result with relief.
“By passing a bill which establishes the principle of sharing value with the creators who make the large platforms successful (article 13), Europe is turning a page to end internet giants’ impunity,” highlighted the civil society of multimedia authors (Scam).
“It’s a new thing that all the families of the print media are coming together, against juggernauts with very powerful legal services,” Pierre Louette, CEO of the Les Échos – Le Parisien group, also affirmed during a conference organised by his business, which brought together supporters of the reform.
A concern for citizens
The copyright reform was also strongly supported by citizens. In fact, a poll conducted by Harris Interactive recently revealed that the mobilisation on the copyright issue was a great concern for French people.
Over three-quarters of French people questioned said the distribution of the value generated by online content between creators and platforms was not fair.
This was a score well above the European average, which stood at 66% for people questioned in the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Romania and Spain.
However, the MEP vote does not mark the end of the directive’s legislative process. “This vote allows the European Parliament and the European Council to open dialogue with a view to the quick adoption of a final bill,” Françoise Nyssen, France’s culture minister explained.
These are discussions which could take months and in which France will have to bring its full weight to bear once again to conclude the reform before the European elections in May 2019.