European Parliament rejects controversial copyright rules in major victory for campaigners

Andrew Griffin
Thursday 05 July 2018 12:22 BST
European Parliament rejects controversial copyright rules of Article 13

The European Parliament has voted against an incredibly controversial new set of copyright rules that campaigners claim could "ban memes".

The law will now be sent for a full reconsideration and debate inside the parliament, during which activists will try and remove the controversial Article 11 and 13.

Article 11 has been referred to by campaigners as instituting a "link tax", by forcing tech companies like Google and Facebook to pay to use snippets of content on their own sites. Article 13 adds rules that make tech companies responsible for ensuring any copyrighted material is not spread over their platforms.

Those rules could force technology companies to scan through everything their users post and check it doesn't include copyrighted material. If it is found, the post will be forced to be removed, which campaigners claim could destroy the kind of memes and remixes that spread across the internet.

The revamp has triggered strong criticism from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, net neutrality expert Tim Wu, internet pioneer Vint Cerf and others.

Copyright campaigners claim that the rules are necessary to ensure that material isn't illegally spread across the internet. Europe's broadcasters, publishers and artists including Paul McCartney backed the rules, arguing the controversial Article 13 would protect the music industry.

A total of 318 law makers voted against opening talks with EU countries based on the committee's proposal while 278 voted in favour, and 31 abstained.

In practice, the vote only delays the final decision on the rules and gives the European Parliament more time to deliberate on them. Another decision will be taken in September.

Internet activists nonetheless hailed the decision as a victory and said that the work of campaigners had helped turn them against automatic scanning of posts to ensure they abide by copyright.

“Round one of the Robo-Copyright wars is over," said Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group. "The EU Parliament has recognised that machine censorship of copyright material is not an easy and simple fix. They’ve heard the massive opposition, including Internet blackouts and 750,000 people petitioning them against these proposals.

“Everyone across Europe who wants this fixed will have to work hard to make sure that Parliament comes up with a sensible way forward by September.

“We congratulate our members for their hard work, and Julia Reda, Catherine Stihler, EDRi and others who have led the fight in Europe to stop these dreadful proposals.”

Copyright campaigners said they would continue to fight for the protections in the legislation.

"This vote is a set-back but it is not the end," said David El Sayegh, secretary general of the Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers of Music. "SACEM remains dedicated to ensuring that creators are recognised and remunerated for the value of their work.

“We will not be discouraged by today’s decision and will continue to mobilise the support of musicians and music lovers across the world, in the hopes of reaching a fair agreement with these platforms that will safeguard the future of the music industry.

“We are confident that the European Parliament will eventually support a framework that fully acknowledges the rights of creators in the digital landscape of the 21st century.”

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