EU Parliament moves ahead on controversial copyright reforms

Strasbourg, France – The European Parliament has reached a joint position on controversial reforms to make EU copyright rules fit for the digital age, paving the way for negotiations to begin with member states.

“This is a good sign for Europe’s creative industry,” said Axel Voss, who shepherded the bill through parliament.

Fair pay for artists and news publishers

The reforms, proposed by the European Commission in 2016, aim to ensure that artists and news publishers are fairly remunerated for work that appears online.

But critics charge that the measures will damage the free exchange of information. The plans have been dubbed by some media outlets as heralding “the death of the internet.”

EU lawmakers agreed on Wednesday that social media platforms must be held responsible for ensuring that uploaded content is not in breach of copyright rules.

The compromise text agreed by the parliament does not mandate the use of controversial upload filters – algorithms that pre-check user-generated content to make sure it complies with copyright rules.

However, critics argue that internet giants such as YouTube would introduce these anyway, in order to abide by the rules.

The proposal backed by the parliament would further limit the ability of websites such as Google to use news headlines or text segments without seeking permission or even paying for the content.

Aims for a deal by the end of the year

The parliament’s position would “thwart” freedom of expression and threaten creativity, charged Monique Goyens of the European Consumer Organization (BEUC). “This protectionist reform will only benefit the copyright industry at the expense of consumers.”

European Digital Rights, a campaign group promoting civil rights online, argued that the compromise represents an “act of outstanding self-harm for both European citizens and European businesses.”

But French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed the agreement as a “great advance for Europe,” recognizing the right to free information and cultural creations.

Negotiations can now begin with EU governments and the commission.

EU Digital Economy Commissioner Mariya Gabriel and Vice President Andrus Ansip welcomed the decision as a “strong and positive signal,” and said they would aim to achieve a deal by the end of the year, according to a statement.

Wednesday’s vote was the second attempt by EU lawmakers to establish a common position, after they narrowly failed to agree in July. More than 200 proposed changes have since been submitted.