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Article 13 vote: Music orgs celebrate as critics lament “worst possible outcome”

Rights societies have hailed today's EU Copyright Directive vote as a landmark victory for creators' rights – though opponents warn of an end to freedom of speech online

By Jon Chapple on 12 Sep 2018

Jean-Michel Jarre leads a Cisac delegation to the EU parliament

Jean-Michel Jarre leads a Cisac delegation to the EU parliament

European collection societies, PROs, publishers and music industry associations have welcomed today’s vote in favour of key provisions of the new EU Copyright Directive.

In a plenary session held earlier this afternoon, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted 438 to 226 in favour of an updated version of the directive, tabled by German MEP Axel Voss, including the much-discussed Article 13, which would compel “online content sharing service providers”, such as social networks or video-sharing sites like YouTube, to take “effective and proportionate” measures – which most believe would take the shape of automatic filters – to combat the sharing of copyrighted works.

The second vote follows an earlier defeat for the bill, on 5 July, which was met with disappointment by much of the music industry. Music bodies, especially collection societies/performance rights organisations, and their counterparts in the tech sector are sharply divided on the merits of the new directive, especially its controversial Article 13: songwriters’ representatives say the legislation would ensure fair remuneration of creators when their works are used online, while internet freedom activists, including the web’s creator, Tim Berners Lee, have said it would transform the internet into a “tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users”.

The amended Article 13, as voted on today, would only apply to platforms that host “significant amounts” of uploads and “promote” them, with an exception for small/micro enterprises, according to German Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda, a prominent critic of the legislation, who dismisses Voss’s “cosmetic changes”.

Today’s vote means the European Parliament (the EU’s legislature) will now take the Copyright Directive to the European Council (the EU’s collective presidency, composed of the leaders of its member states), to decide the shape of the final legislation.

The director-general of Cisac, the network of authors’ rights societies – one of the initiators of the Europe for Creators initiative, which campaigned for a ‘yes’ vote – describes the vote as a “historic decision that will send a ripple effect around the world”. “The EU parliament has stood up for the core values that have underpinned Europe’s culture and creative industries’ protection for centuries,” comments Gadi Oron.

Repeating claims made by Article 13 supporters that fears of automated “censorship machines” and a ban on memes are unfounded and stoked by tech giants that stand to lose out from free access to copyrighted content, Oron adds: “Despite an onslaught of misinformation by big tech companies, Europe has led the way in bringing fairness to creators in the digital world. This was a vote cast in Europe, but which has positive implications for the future working environment of creators across the world.”

“Europe has led the way in bringing fairness to creators in the digital world”

Chris Butler, chair of the International Confederation of Music Publishers (ICMP), comments: “We are delighted with today’s vote, which is a clear victory for rightsholders. Article 13 of the directive is necessary to redress the grotesque imbalance music publishers face online and we urge Mr Voss and his team to stand firm in their upcoming negotiations with member state governments.”

“It is a great day for culture and music in Europe as the Copyright Directive is adopted by the European Parliament,” says Paul Pacifico, CEO of the Association of Independent Music (AIM), which represents independent UK record labels. “I would like to thank the MEPs from all parties for their energetic and highly engaged approach to this very sensitive and important legislation that stands to benefit the next generation of music artists and creators online who generate the content we all enjoy.”

Robert Ashcroft, chief executive of British collection society PRS for Music, says: “The European Parliament today took a bold step forward to ensure a functioning and sustainable digital single market for creative content. PRS for Music has fought from the beginning for digital services to pay all creators fairly for the content they use. Today’s vote was a ringing endorsement of our work and that of our colleagues in the industry over the last five years.”

UK Music CEO Michael Dugher says the vote marks a “fantastic victory” for “all those involved in the UK music industry”.

“I would congratulate the MEPs, British MPs, musicians, creators, investors and all who worked so tirelessly in support of these vital safeguards – despite the campaign of misinformation by [YouTube owner] Google and their allies,” he comments. “There must be no watering down of this breakthrough commitment to creators. It’s important that everyone continues to work together to implement real change as quickly as possible.”

The European Grouping of Societies of Authors and Composers (Gesac) – another Europe for Creators backer – believes the vote is “a victory for Europe and its independence from a few tech giants who have profited off outdated legislation to further consolidate unhealthy dominance and to siphon value out of Europe and its creators,” according to president Anders Lassen.

“the European Parliament is putting corporate profits over freedom of speech”

Reaction isn’t been so positive outside the music industry, with members of the public flooding social media to lament what many are describing as “the death of the internet”.

Along with 49 other MEPs, Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake had previously tried to amend the legislation, hoping to avoid draconian ‘upload filters’ by instead mandating that YouTube secure licences from all rightsholders, as well as secure an exemption for memes, gifs and other user-generated parodies. She describes today’s events as the “worst possible outcome” for “ordinary internet users”. “With this vote we are taking a step backwards instead of creating a copyright reform for the 21st century,” she comments.

Reda, meanwhile, calls the vote “a severe blow to the free and open internet. By endorsing new legal and technical limits on what we can post and share online, the European Parliament is putting corporate profits over freedom of speech and abandoning long-standing principles that made the internet what it is today.”

However, in a joint statement that welcomes the vote to “start negotiations on modern copyright rules”, the European Commission – which proposed the copyright directive in September 2016 – maintains the directive will benefit EU citizens and creators alike.

Say the Commission’s vice-president for the digital single market, Andrus Ansip, and commissioner for digital economy and society, Mariya Gabriel: “Our aim for this reform is to bring tangible benefits for EU citizens, researchers, educators, writers, artists, press and cultural heritage institutions and to open up the potential for more creativity and content by clarifying the rules and making them fit for the digital world. At the same time, we aim to safeguard free speech and ensure that online platforms – including 7,000 European online platforms – can develop new and innovative offers and business models.

“The Commission stands ready to start working with the European Parliament and the Council of the EU, so that the directive can be approved as soon as possible, ideally by the end of 2018. We are fully committed to working with the co-legislators in order to achieve a balanced and positive outcome enabling a true modernisation of the copyright legislation that Europe needs.”


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