Call to members of the European Parliament: Open letter on the EU copyright reform

 

Publication date: 
July 2018
Author: 
Various

With a crucial vote taking place on 5 July in the European Parliament, over 145 organisations representing human rights, privacy, civil rights and media freedom organisations, start-ups, software developers, publishers, creators, journalists, radios, libraries, higher education and research institutions call upon the European Parliament to vote against the Legal Affairs (JURI) Committee mandate to negotiate on the copyright reform with the Council.

On 2 July, over 145 organisations sent this open letter on the EU copyright reform to the members of the European Parliament ahead of the 5 July plenary vote on the JURI mandate which was granted on 20 June. During this vote, the European Parliament plenary will have to endorse or not the mandate granted to Rapporteur MEP Axel Voss by the JURI Committee to enter into trilogue negotiations on the copyright reform with the Council. The letter's signatories repeat and amplify the voices raised previously to express their deep concerns about the artificial sense of urgency created by certain stakeholders to quickly come to an agreement on a very sensitive and controversial dossier. As aptly summarised by Wikimedia in a 29 June blog post, "We oppose this EU copyright package because of its detrimental effects on internet freedom, access to knowledge, and collaboration online."

This rush is especially harmful as:

  • The collateral damage inherent to the vague and poorly drafted provisions adopted in the JURI Committee have been highlighted by a broad spectrum of European stakeholders and experts, including academics, educators, NGOs representing human rights and media freedom, software developers and startups (see, among others, the statement of 29 June 2018 by academics, "The Copyright Directive: Misinformation and Independent Enquiry"; the open letter of 11 June 2018 by 70+ "Internet Luminaries"; the blog post of 19 June 2018 by French privacy-friendly search engine Qwant, "Protecting copyright with robots: A risk for fundamental rights and freedoms"; and the blog post of 12 June 2018 by Paul Sieminski from Automattic, the company that created WordPress: "We’re Against Bots, Filtering, and the EU’s New Copyright Directive").

  • The JURI vote has completely disregarded the much more balanced compromises reached in other Committees, especially on the highly controversial Article 13, for which the Internal Market and Consumer Committee (IMCO) held a joint competence.

As pointed out previously, the draft on the table represents a huge gap between stated intentions and the damage that the text will actually achieve:

  • Article 13 (user uploads) creates a direct liability regime for a vast area of online platforms that negates the E-commerce Directive, which will entail the putting in place of filters with a high likelihood of over blocking practices, to avoid incurring such liability.

  • Article 11 (press publisher’s right) solely focuses on creating publisher rights despite the many voices opposing such a right and highlighting its flaws, and despite a reasonable alternative proposed by the initial Rapporteur to create a “presumption of transfer of rights”.

  • The interaction of these two articles has not even been the subject of a single discussion. The filters of Article 13 will cover the snippets of Article 11 while the limitations of Article 3 will be amplified by the rights created through Article 11, yet none of these aspects have even been assessed.

  • Article 3 (text and data mining) cannot be limited in terms of scope of beneficiaries or purposes if the EU wants to be at the forefront of research and innovations such as artificial intelligence.

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