Copyright directive faces further setback as final trilogue postponed

An interior view of the Europa building's atrium in Brussels, Belgium, 09 December 2016. [EPA/STEPHANIE LECOCQ]

The controversial EU copyright directive faces a further setback after the final inter-institutional negotiations set to take place on Monday evening (21 January) were put on hold on Friday.

Ambassadors representing the 28 EU member states met on Friday and were supposed to rubber stamp the Council’s position ahead of Monday’s “trilogue” talks with the European Parliament and the Commission.

But a coalition of countries including Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Poland blocked the approval of the Council’s mandate.

A new date for the final trilogue on the copyright directive is yet to be announced.

After the news broke on Friday evening, the EU’s digital affairs Commissioner Andrus Ansip said he was “disappointed” by the delay and that policymakers should not “lose sight of the major achievements that are already largely agreed.”

A spokesperson for the European Commission added: “We take note. It’s a priority file for the EU institutions and a key reform for the European citizens and the European creative and press sectors. The Commission will continue to help the EU co-legislators to find a deal.”

Articles 11 & 13

Ambassadors on Friday were meant to hash out a consensus on two of the most hotly debated clauses in the copyright directive: Articles 11 and 13.

Article 13 obliges internet platforms to create filters that monitor user uploads to ensure copyright isn’t breached. Under the current draft, they would become liable for the copyright infringement of users.

Article 11, meanwhile, obliges internet platforms that post snippets of information to contract a license from the original publisher.

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.

EURACTIV understands that ambassadors were set to find agreement on what form of content should be covered under Article 11.

Ambassadors were expected to find a compromise amongst member states by suggesting that only “very short extracts” should be protected.

In terms of Article 13, ambassadors on Friday were expected to reach a consensus on how to ensure the copyright provisions of user-generated content would have been protected and whether an ‘open’ or a ‘closed’ list should be included as to which types of user-generated content is exempted.

In addition, EURACTIV understands that discussions regarding exemptions for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) failed to find common ground.

Copyright tribulations

The copyright reforms were first presented in 2016 by digital commissioner Günther Oettinger, before he left his post to make way for Mariya Gabriel.

The plans then faced a rough ride in the Parliament’s plenary, which turned down the text initially adopted by the Legal Affairs Committee. Parliament eventually adopted its final stance in September, kicking off a series of inter-institutional negotiations with EU member states in the Council of Ministers.

The incumbent Romanian Presidency of the European Council struck a tone of regret at the setback on Friday.

“The proposal for the Copyright Directive is very complex and has been on the table in the last years,” a spokesperson from the Romanian Presidency said.

“It could bring many benefits to the Digital Single Market but also has many ramifications and the Council needs more time to reflect in order to reach a solid position.”

“The Romanian Presidency will reflect on the way forward.”

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.

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