EU Vote On Controversial Copyright Rules Notches Early Win For Tech Giants


European Union lawmakers on Thursday voted against a series of controversial copyright rules known as the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. The vote handed a perceived, but perhaps temporary, victory to Silicon Valley while reps for content creators and owners expressed disappointment at the outcome. The directive will now go back to the drawing board and be debated again in September.

At the heart of the intense battle today were Articles 11 and 13. The former includes what has been dubbed by the opposition as a “link tax” whereby websites would pay a fee for printing excerpts of news stories or linking to them on other sites. With that in mind in the run-up to today’s vote, Wikipedia went dark in Spain, Poland and Italy while some of its other local versions carried banners encouraging users to contact members of the European Parliament in protest.

Article 13 would make digital platforms, think YouTube and Facebook, liable for any copyright infringements on uploaded content, and could require a filter to block illegal postings. Earlier this week, supporter Paul McCartney penned a letter to MEPs, saying “Music and culture matter. They are our heart and soul.” The proposed directive will “help assure a sustainable future for the music ecosystem and its creators, fans and digital music services alike.”

Also pro-change, the Society of Audiovisual Authors today said it regrets the vote’s result which “not only undermines months of intense work and negotiations by the members of the Legal Affairs Committee, it also sends a strange signal about Europe’s ability to define a favorable legal framework for authors’ rights in the digital era before the election of a new European Parliament.”

Said SAA Executive Director Cécile Despringre, “It is very disappointing that a majority of Members of the European Parliament gave in to the aggressive pressure put on them by digital platforms and the opponents to copyright instead of listening to European authors. This will only delay much needed rules for authors whose earnings are weakened in the digital era.”

But not all artists were in favor. Ahead of the vote, Stephen Fry linked to the site and tweeted to his 13.1M followers, “Don’t believe the creepy pretence that (Article 13 is) there to protect © holders. It’s about putting power in the hands of media corporations. We can stop it!”

Today, vocal Directive opponent and MEP Julia Reda hailed the vote’s outcome:

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