Shadow rapporteurs take stand against Parliament’s handling of copyright directive

Shadow rapporteurs on the controversial copyright directive are frustrated that the European Parliament does not have a unified position on disputed Articles 11 and 13, with one MEP telling EURACTIV that Parliament has been conducting institutional negotiations without a text fully agreed on by shadows.

The shadow rapporteurs formally voiced their discontent in a letter to lead Rapporteur, Axel Voss (CDU-EPP).

“The rapporteur has been appearing in front of the Commission and Council during inter-institutional negotiations without having negotiated with us on some of the key articles in the text,” ALDE MEP Jean-Marie Cavada, one of the shadow rapporteurs taking part in the negotiations, told EURACTIV on Tuesday (11 December).

“The Commission has a text and the Council has a position. But the Parliament doesn’t have an agreed position of many articles because the rapporteur hasn’t been listening to us.”

The comments come as EU ambassadors meet to discuss the report on Wednesday (12 December), while inter-institutional negotiations take place on Thursday (13 December).

The letter, seen exclusively by EURACTIV, has been signed by a range of shadow rapporteurs and demanded a last-ditch meeting to air out differences between MEPs before what was due to be the final trialogue on Thursday.

After receiving the letter, Voss organised the meeting on Wednesday morning (12 December). He did not respond to EURACTIV’s request for comments.

“The rapporteur hasn’t consulted the shadows on certain points of conflict in the text, particularly with regards to Articles 11 and 13,” Cavada said. “The majority of shadows are against closing the text on Thursday because our amendments to the text haven’t been agreed upon.”

Article 11 obliges internet platforms that post snippets of information to contract a license for the original publisher of the material. Article 13, otherwise known as the ‘upload filter’ or ‘censorship machine’ clause, would call upon platforms to monitor user behaviour as a means to stop copyright infringement.

“Detestable climate” and heavy lobbying

On top of procedural complaints, Cavada described a “detestable climate” surrounding the copyright directive, heavily criticising the volume of lobbying around the debate.

“There is a level of pressure coming from outside the institutions that I have never before seen. Why are we obliged to support the American interest inside these negotiations?”

The ALDE MEP also voiced discomfort at the fact that YouTube’s CEO, Susan Wojcicki travelled to Strasbourg to lobby MEPs on the copyright directive in November.

“She was invited here by the rapporteur,” Cavada said. “At the highest level of political negotiations, this is completely unacceptable.”

“The organisation of this directive has been so chaotic,” he added, referring to the ad-hoc nature of how shadow meetings have been cancelled and rescheduled.

Copyright could force us to pull out of EU, Google News boss says

A specific article in the controversial copyright directive may result in Google withdrawing their news aggregator service from the EU, EURACTIV has learnt. EU ministers are set to discuss the issue and reach an agreement on the file later this week.

EU Publishers take on Google

Google News vice president Richard Gingras spoke to EURACTIV recently and warned that Article 11 of the copyright directive could force Google News to withdraw their services from the EU, in a move that harks back to similar measures taken out by the tech giant when the Spanish copyright law was introduced in 2014.

On the subject of Google, Cavada stressed that MEPs are by no means “against” the tech giants who would be most affected by the copyright measures, but rather insisted that companies as large as Google should pay their way to support European grassroots creativity.

Meanwhile, a coalition of European publishers have banded together to contest Google’s claims over Article 11, with an open letter that calls upon policymakers to “preserve the diversity and value of our free and independent press” by ensuring that Article 11 is adopted.

“One should not be surprised that Google is ramping up its opposition to a Publisher’s Right when their very business model is based on free and unfettered re-use of publishers’ and others’ valuable content without a negotiation on terms and conditions,” the letter reads, signed by executive directors from the European Magazine Media Association, European Newspaper Publishers’ Association, the European Publishers Council, and News Media Europe.

“They have made no secret of their opposition to this right, which simply provides publishers with their own legal standing through an exclusive right to negotiate individually, or collectively with those who wish to re-use their content.”

With such stark divisions at play, it is now highly unlikely that an agreement will be reached later this week, and another trialogue sometime in January will be required to tie up the negotiations between the Council and Parliament.

“We don’t want to rush through this directive unnecessarily,” Cavada said. “We want to make sure we have the right text, agreed upon by all shadows.”

“There is only one goal in the copyright directive: to protect content creators,” he said.

Living on a prayer: Artists step up case for copyright reform

A vote on the contentious copyright bill will take place in the European Parliament on 12 September in Strasbourg. The directive aims to ensure that producers of creative content are remunerated fairly online. A number of artists, including Sir Paul McCartney, have supported the bill, while opponents say it could lead to censorship.

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