FEP urges MEP lobbying on copyright

FEP urges MEP lobbying on copyright

The Federation of European Publishers (FEP) is calling on trade figures across the continent to lobby Members of the European Parliament to combat the "fake mobilisation" of tech giants and "copyleft" activists as a key vote on the EU’s controversial copyright law reform looms.

The EU Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market is the legislation meant to update existing copyright laws for the internet age. The directive has been divisive, with creators and rights-holders broadly in favour of the reforms, while opponents fear the plans could restrict the flow of research and destroy user-generated content, memes and parodies. Tech conglomerates are particularly angered that the changes put the onus on them to ensure copyright agreements are in place for content shared on their digital platforms. After its first stage in the summer, the European Parliament voted to proceed with the law in September.

FEP director Anne Bergman-Tahon said "reason prevailed" in September, adding: "[The directive] largely respects a balance. To take an example, it allows text and data mining for scientific research, and only permits it for commercial purposes if the rights-holders can oppose it, including by technical means." The directive now enters the crucial Trialogue phase—where the European Parliament, Council and Commission thrash out the details—with a further vote slated for February 2019.

The FEP is asking publishers to make their voices heard, against what will likely be a huge campaign funded by tech giants. It was widely reported this summer that Google alone spent €25m–€30m on lobbying EU politicians on the issue. In the run-up to the summer vote, MEPs were sent hundreds of thousands of emails—the bulk favouring a broadening of, and more exclusions to, current copyright law.

An investigation discovered the vast majority of these emails came from outside the EU, and were sent automatically. Bergman-Tahon said: "[It] was bots, it was a fake mobilisation, completely unrelated to reality. What we as publishers need to do is call our MEPs, email our MEPs, and we need to say, ‘We create jobs, we create wealth, we create culture: defend us.’"

The final outcome is not just a regional matter, Bergman-Tahon noted, as "this is going to be the copyright model for the rest of the world". She added that regardless of Brexit, UK publishers should still contact their MEPs before the planned EU exit in March 2019: "Post-Brexit UK copyright legislation may not be the same as the EU, but there will be a need for smooth, if not free, circulation."