The European Union’s controversial overhaul of the bloc’s Copyright Directive was voted down by the European Parliament in Strasbourg on July 5. The proposed legislation was rejected by a margin of 318-278.
“We regret that the European Parliament has rejected the mandate for the negotiations with the member states as it could have been a real step further in establishing a legal certainty between the copyright holders and users on the internet,” said Axel Voss MEP, Parliament’s Spokesman on copyright. “The compromise draft that was prepared by the Legal Affairs Committee reflected months of preparation and careful deliberations to adapt copyright rules to the realities of the digital era, and we believe that this text represents a good basis to enter negotiations with the EU Governments. We are ready to defend this compromise and convince our colleagues for the vote in September.”
The proposed rules would have put more responsibility on websites to check for copyright infringements, and forced platforms to pay for linking to news. The rules were aimed to bring the EU’s copyright laws in line with the digital age.
As reported by the BBC, the proposed legislation contained two highly-contested parts. The first of these, Article 11, was intended to protect newspapers and other outlets from internet giants like Google and Facebook using their material without payment.
But it was branded a “link tax” by opponents who feared it could lead to problems with sentence fragments being used to link to other news outlets.
Article 13 was the other controversial part. It put a greater responsibility on websites to enforce copyright laws, and would have meant that any online platform that allowed users to post text, images, sounds or code would need a way to assess and filter content.
Backing the bill were 1,300 musicians, including Paul McCartney, Annie Lennox, Placido Domingo and David Guetta.
However, critics warned the laws would stifle creativity – with Creative Commons chief Ryan Merkley observing that The Beatles would have been prevented from performing cover versions under the proposed rules.
The Agence France-Presse (AFP) noted that major US tech giants also campaigned against the proposed rules. “Today’s vote represents a victory for democracy,” said Siada El Ramly, head of EDiMA, a lobby representing Google, Facebook and other US tech giants.
“Today’s vote is not a vote against the text itself but a vote to open new discussions in parliament,” said Greens MEP Pascal Durand. “We want a more balanced text that protects copyright, fundamental freedoms and the indispensable freedom of the net.”
However, MEPs from France who had staunchly backed fast-tracking the reform, were furious after the vote. US tech giants “who steal from artists and pay no taxes, have won a battle,” said MEP Pervenche Beres.
Sounding the alarm, S&D Group President Udo Bullmann said “numerous MEPs have been subject to serious threats in the last few days”.
“This is completely unacceptable,” he added. “The lobby groups pushing on both sides of the debate need to realise that their actions have consequences. We encourage all those involved to tone down the rhetoric and make sure that threats of physical violence, or even death, are never acceptable.”