I will vote to open up the mandate for the Copyright Report that was proposed by the Legal Affairs (JURI) Committee for a full parliamentary debate and amendments.
I am doing so principally because I believe on such a fundamental change to copyright law, arguably the biggest in 300 years, the whole European Parliament should have a say. This is particularly the case when it is clear the Legal Affairs Committee was divided, with a number of extremely close votes, notably on Article 11, the press publisher’s right, which passed by 1 vote.
Shutting down debate after such a tight result and with a significant number of MEPs from outside the committee clearly interested and opposed to the JURI text would not be right and would not give the parliament a strong hand in negotiations.
Separate to the issue of the democratic mandate of the JURI text, I do also have reservations about the content of the compromises voted through the committee, which differed sharply from the compromises reached in the IMCO committee.
There are many aspects of copyright law touched on by the Directive, another reason not to rush into hurried negotiations and for the parliament to take its time in reaching democratic conclusions, but the two key issues are Articles 11 and 13.
Article 11 creates a new right for press publishers, separate from the historic right of authors, and requires users wishing to share small amounts of content to negotiate a licence with the publisher. Article 13 obliges online platforms to pre-monitor content uploaded by millions of users for copyright infringements.
In both cases, online use of media articles, and user generated content infringing particularly audio-visual media copyright the press and music and film industries have legitimate concerns that need to be addressed.
However, my worry with the text as voted by the JURI committee is that it throws the baby out with the bathwater; it sets in place such stringent new requirements as to upend the internet as we know it, risking freedom of expression and placing serious burdens on thousands of small websites.
The big players such as google and amazon can cope with many of the obligations imposed on them by the JURI text on Article 13 in terms of seeking out millions of licensees from around the world and concluding agreements with them and putting in place sophisticated monitoring software, small one-person part-time businesses may not be able to. Much legitimate content would be automatically prevented from being uploaded by users by the content monitoring software that websites would be required to install. Many users would inevitably not appeal such decisions, an unacceptable stifling of freedom of speech and something which would fundamentally change the current nature of the internet.
On Article 11 the amount of text that would lead to a copyright infringement is tiny, just an unoriginal headline would be enough to force a user to seek a licence or cause a website to take it down. That is not proportionate and undermines the sharing of links to news articles by users with friends and acquaintances on social media, something an entire generation of young people have grown up doing as the way they learn their news.
On both Articles 11 and 13 there are compromises out there, the IMCO committee text on 13 tried to tackle the concerns rights holders had about illegitimate use of their content by users on platforms and on Article 11 I sincerely believe more can be done to tackle wholesale scraping of uncredited articles, which deprives publishers of legitimate income.
However the JURI text as it stands would be counterproductive and would actually hurt the legitimate, revenue generating, spread of copyrighted content online, hurting smaller publishers and labels in particular as well as limiting consumer choice online
We do have an opportunity to make a positive change to copyright laws to help both rights holders and internet users, but to do so we need to be allowed to debate and amend the text voted by the JURI committee.