Trade dismayed after controversial EU copyright law rejected

Trade dismayed after controversial EU copyright law rejected

Publishers and authors have expressed their disappointment and “worry” after a controversial EU copyright law was rejected by parliament.

Stephen Lotinga, c.e.o. of the Publishers Association, said yesterday’s rejection of the bill was “deeply worrying and indicative of a lack of political will across Europe to support copyright holders”, while Nicola Solomon, c.e.o. of the Society of Authors, said “I am disappointed by the result of the vote.”

Yesterday MEPs were asked to vote on a new directive designed to bring the EU’s copyright law in line with the digital age. It would have put greater onus on individual websites to monitor for infringement of copyright and raised the possibility of a so-called "link tax", which, in the interests of fairer remuneration for authors and other creators, would have prevented online content-sharing platforms and news aggregators from sharing links without paying for them.

Supporters, including Sir Paul McCartney, said the introduction of the new draft Copyright Directive would enhance the effectiveness of intellectual property protection rules. However, critics, including big tech companies, feared it could pose a threat to the very future and function of the internet, questioning whether AI filters would be able to tell the difference between infringing and non-infringing content, for example in cases of fair use.

It was rejected by a margin of 318-278 in the European Parliament on Thursday (5th July).

MEPs decided the changes needed more debate, reported the BBC, and sent the proposals back to the Commission to be voted on again at a later date.

Publishers, booksellers and authors have expressed their dismay that the directive was voted down.

Lotinga said: “This vote is deeply worrying and indicative of a lack of political will across Europe to support copyright holders when faced by huge pressure from very large tech companies. While publishers did not like every aspect of the regulations we accepted that compromises were necessary for progress to be made.

“Now this vote has been lost we will need to redouble our efforts to ensure the Parliament supports a balanced copyright system that rewards creators appropriately.”

Solomon, speaking for the SoA, added: “I am disappointed by the result of today’s vote. The Copyright Directive contains important provisions to update copyright law for the digital age, and maintains the balance between rightsholders and users.

“It is particularly important for authors and other creators that the proposals contained in Articles 14 to 16 are implemented. These elements of the Directive are non-controversial and would strengthen the law around creator contracts.”

Françoise Dubruille, director of European & International Booksellers Federation, said that despite fierce lobbying from the creative and cultural sector industries, it seemed that many decision makers “have still not understood what is at stake”.

“Copyright is the backbone of our industry. If there is no copyright, there are no booksellers. It is also the basis of many other businesses like cinema, radio, sport, TV, video, videogames, music,” she said, adding: “Now more than ever is the time to support all creative and cultural industries, as strong copyright rules are key to a sustainable and vibrant creative economy online and offline.”

MEPs will debate the Directive again later in the year, and Solomon added: “I hope that a solution can be reached so that these advantageous reforms for authors are not thrown off the table.”