Fillon’s former deputy backs controversial copyright reform

Marc Joulaud employed Penelope Fillon as his assistant when François Fillon became prime minister. [European Parliament]

The European Parliament’s Committee on Culture, usually a staunch defender of authors’ rights, has proposed a series of new exceptions to the copyright reforms under development at EU level. Rapporteur Marc Joulaud is a former deputy of François Fillon and employer of his wife Penelope. EURACTIV France reports.

On Tuesday (28 February) the Parliament’s culture committee presented its report on copyright reform, which raised some eyebrows among the creative industries in France. The rapporteur, generally a discrete MEP, has recently been propelled to centre stage by the media frenzy surrounding ‘Penelopegate’.

As Fillon’s deputy during the last two parliamentary mandates, Joulaud had employed Penelope Fillon as his assistant when her husband became prime minister.

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And as a member of the culture committee, Joulaud’s report supported positions that appear to go against those usually adopted by the French right, which tends to be conservative when it comes to copyright. In his report presented to the European Parliament, the MEP proposed the addition of several new exceptions to EU copyright law.

“Copyright reform is something that happens every 15 years, so we have to be ambitious,” he said, before presenting his main proposals, which include new derogations for the use of short extracts from copyrighted works. Joulaud also wants to shorten the period during which news articles can benefit from copyright, because, he said, the life-span of a news article is shorter than a piece of fiction or music.

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Günther Oettinger is leading the EU’s copyright reform efforts. In an interview with EURACTIV Germany, MEP Julia Reda warned this would threaten the freedom of online news publications and benefit false news outlets at the expense of journalists and small publishers.

Some of his colleagues in the European Parliament raised questions over article 11 of the report, which they fear could weaken the press sector.

This is the opinion of Martina Michels, a far left MEP (GUE/NGL group), who condemned this political intervention in the relations between platforms and the press. “The argument of quality journalism does not stand up: the negotiating position of press houses will be weak. Google and co. will be able to impose whatever costs they choose,” she said.

“The press is experiencing a major crisis, we must be able to support it. I can hardly imagine a Europe without the United Kingdom, but I certainly can’t imagine a Europe without creators,” said Greek Socialist MEP Giorgos Grammaticakis.

Taking advantage of the French presidential campaign, the SADC – the organisation that manages copyright in France – sent a letter, seen by EURACTIV, to François Fillon and Marc Joulaud denouncing this position, which it described as “surprising”.

“In recognising three new exceptions to copyright law, beyond even what the European Commission was proposing, and by refusing to promote the right to remuneration for authors throughout Europe, based on the French model, Mr. Joulaud is contributing to the weakening of copyright law,” the letter said.

The presentation of the report was just a first step and the debate will continue in the European Parliament.

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