Copyright Directive approved at plenary vote

26 March

A plenary vote by the European Parliament’s saw the Copyright Directive adopted without amendment, with 348 votes in favour and 274 votes against (full breakdown detailed here and final agreed text here).

This process also included an initial vote as to whether MEPs would further consider amendments to Articles 11 and 13. Whilst this officially failed with 317 votes against and 312 votes for, it has since been revealed that due to human errors in voting this motion would otherwise have passed. 13 MEPs reportedly pressed the wrong button due to a last minute change to the voting order, with 10 MEPs claiming that they would have voted in favour of considering amendments (leading to 319 votes for consideration, and 314 against). Whilst the corrections of votes appear on the official record, they do not change the outcome of the vote (detailed at p51 here).

A joint statement from Commission Vice-President Andrew Ansip and Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel welcomed the outcome of the vote. The statement described this as “ensur[ing] the right balance between the interests of all players – users, creators, authors, press – while putting in place proportionate obligations on online platforms”. Magaritis Schinas, chief spokesman for the Commission also described the vote as “Europe tak[ing] back control”.

The result has drawn a mixed response from European research organisations. Europeana described the vote as “a boost for Europe’s cultural heritage institutions”, praising the adoption of new provisions on e.g. text and data mining and clarification on digitisation practices, but remaining silent on the controversial Articles 11 and 13. Liber has adopted a cautious stance, describing the outcome as “bittersweet”; they note that they “will speak out if it appears that Articles 11 and 13 are impacting on knowledge sharing and creation”. The Communia Association has decried the outcome as a “lost opportunity for Europe [that] shows lack of respect for user rights” which furthermore jeopardises fundamental rights. Similarly, international perspectives from Catherine Stihler (chief executive of Open Knowledge International) described the vote as “a massive blow for every internet user in Europe”; Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia) also opined that “you, the internet user, have lost a huge battle today in Internet parliament” [sic].

Being supporters of the Directive throughout, members of the music industry have issued comments praising the outcome of the vote. IFPI described the move as a “global first”, with IMPALA expressing their hope that this would create a “ripple effect world wide”. Conversely, YouTube and parent company Google have recognised that whilst the Directive text has improved, it will still ultimately lead to uncertainty and unintended consequences.

A further final vote on the adoption of the Directive will now take place by the Council in order to complete the codecision procedure on 15 April. Whilst this is largely understood to be a formality, any Member State may withdraw support for the Directive and block its progression. Both Germany and the UK have been forwarded as potential candidates for such an action. In respect of the former, this is posited due to widespread street protests and the withdrawal of support from the Minister of Justice. The UK’s position is less certain, given its position as the fourth largest music market in the world; MP (and tipped potential Prime Minister) Boris Johnson’s comments suggest the government’s withdrawal of support, though both MEPs Marietje Schaake and Julia Reda have cautioned that this law is primarily supported by conservatives (like Johnson) and otherwise the UK still plan to vote in favour.