Two world views are about to clash in a crucial copyright vote next week, on June 8. The European Parliament is currently undergoing a process to find a common position on the copyright reform plans proposed by the European Commission, which would threaten core functions of the internet and which academics have unanimously slammed.

With the Parliament tending towards a reasonable position, some are resorting to dirty tactics to defend – or even extend – these disastrous plans by any means necessary.

An ‘alternative compromise’

On June 8, the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee will decide its standpoint. This is a crucial step in the copyright reform process, because the IMCO committee is jointly responsible for the Parliament position on one of the most controversial parts of the reform: the introduction of mandatory censorship filters on online services such as social media.

Today it was revealed that MEP Pascal Arimont from the European People’s Party (EPP) is trying to sabotage the Parliamentary process, going behind the negotiators of the political groups and pushing a text that would make the Commission’s original bad proposal look tame in comparison. This is a tactic he recently already successfully applied to prevent the committee from adopting a progressive position on overcoming geoblocking. If he succeeds again, the result would once more do the opposite of what the Committee is tasked to do: Protecting European consumers.

In this committee, Social Democrat MEP Catherine Stihler was appointed to take everyone’s proposed changes and develop a compromise that a majority of MEPs can stand behind. To do this, she is regularly meeting with representatives of all the other political groups (including myself, for the Greens/EFA group). Together, these representatives have come close to finding a compromise:

  1. We do not support the Commission’s plan to force online platforms to surveil their users’ behavior and pre-emptively censor uploads that may be copyright infringement. Instead, we advocate requiring companies that actually have knowledge and control over copyright infringement on their platforms and don’t take immediate action to remove it, to take out a licence under fair conditions and be more cooperative towards rightsholders. In return, these companies would continue to be protected from liability for actions of their users, and users’ rights to use copyrighted content under a copyright exception would receive legal protection against arbitrary measures by online services or rightsholders.
  2. We reject the Commission’s plan to create an extra copyright for news sites that would severely limit how we can share news online.

The EPP’s “alternative compromise” is a compromise like “alternative facts” are facts
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Arimont now wants the MEPs from groups like the Social Democrats and the Liberal ALDE group to rebel against their negotiators and support his own text instead.

He calls his text an “alternative compromise”, but in reality, it’s no more a compromise than “alternative facts” are facts. His text goes beyond the copyright extension plans by the European Commission and also ignores much more moderate amendments submitted by members of his own political group.

Content filters on steroids

Instead of finding a delicate balance between the interests of rights holders, online services and users as agreed by the other political groups, Mr. Arimont’s “alternative compromise” reads like a wish list of the content industry, with utter disregard for the Charter of Fundamental Rights and long-established principles of EU law.

He wants to double down on the obligation for content filtering, which he doesn’t want to just apply to services hosting “large amounts” of copyrighted content, as proposed by the Commission, but to any service facilitating the availability of such content, even if the service is not actually hosting anything at all. This could require content filters even for services that are linking to content on other websites, because hyperlinks, according to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), can be considered a copyright infringement under certain circumstances.

The only exception foreseen would be for micro-businesses that are no older than 5 years. So if you’ve been self-employed for more than 5 years, rules the Commission wrote with the likes of YouTube and Facebook in mind would suddenly also apply to your personal website.

At the same time, Mr. Arimont seeks to completely override the court ruling of the CJEU that states that general monitoring of all users’ activities constitutes a violation of fundamental rights – by brazenly stating that monitoring all users’ uploads for specific copyrighted works is not “general” monitoring, as if it were possible to reliably find all needles in a haystack without looking at the entire haystack.

He then goes on to state that any online service that so much as uses an algorithm to improve the presentation of user-uploaded content (like sorting files alphabetically by their name) would be considered directly liable for any copyright infringement. Where the European Commission proposal was trying to gloss over the fact that it was trying to re-write the intermediary liability rules, Mr. Arimont’s text spells it out for us: “The service providers that play such an active role are ineligible for the liability exemption” (active role being defined by him as “optimisation for the purpose of the presentation by the service of the uploaded works or subject-matter or their promotion by the service, irrespective of the nature of the means used therefor“).

Privatising news headlines all the way back to the cold war

Since all political groups in the committee except for the EPP (and the populist EFDD) had tabled amendments completely deleting the neighbouring right for publishers, the rapporteur’s suggestion to follow this proposal in the compromise amendments is logical. Of course Mr. Arimont was not happy with this outcome, but his “alternative compromise” reads more like a provocation than an attempt to find middle ground. Contrary to some of his EPP colleagues, who proposed the compromise wording developed by the lead committee rapporteur Therese Comodini (EPP), he goes for a drastic extension of the Commission’s proposed extra copyright for news publishers.

Where the Commission proposes a protection of 20 years for the use of news snippets in a digital form, he extends it to 50 years, for both offline and online uses. Reciting a headline from the cold war era would suddenly require permission from the original publisher, who may have long since gone out of business. Where the Commission wants to apply this right to press publishers only, Mr. Arimont explicitly includes academic publishers, a move that would spell disaster for any open access initiatives.

In an attempt to silence the most vocal critics of this copyright extension, Mr. Arimont generously clarifies that single words should not be covered by the new rights, and neither should hyperlinks. That of course means that anything that goes beyond a single word – two words – or the naked URL to a news article would be covered by the neighbouring right. And who’s going to click a link that doesn’t even use the headline of the news article as an indication of what can be found at the other end?

Download the “alternative compromises” here:
#1 #2

Tell your MEP to say no to these false ‘compromises’

Help us defeat this brazen attempt to undermine Parliament procedures and expand copyright in the EU on behalf of big business with no regard to fundamental rights, contemporary internet culture or startups – and in a way that is likely to dangerously backfire.

Contact an MEP from your country who sits on the IMCO Committee and tell them you expect them to support MEP Stihler’s compromise amendments on the copyright file. A phone call takes no more than a few minutes and can prove very effective. Internet rights NGO Bits of Freedom has created a handy tool that allows you to call MEPs for free! The vote is only a week away, so now is the time to act!

I told my MEP to reject attempts to push a dangerous expansion of EU copyright  Tweet this!

To the extent possible under law, the creator has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this work.

My name is Julia, I'm the Pirate in the European Parliament.

I'm fighting to make copyright in the EU unified, progressive and fit for the future. Will you join me?

21 comments

  1. 1
    Jonas Rahmberg

    Stop this nonsense of destroying the value of internet

  2. 2
    Emil Persson

    It will cripple IT innovation in Europe
    We need a strong alternative to the dominated American Market
    These rules would set all from starting news outlets to content creators back to the stone ages.
    Musicans should be able to control there own content they produce without the big companies.

    Protect the creators not the Copywrite groups who uses us as sheep

  3. 3

    This is madness, I won´t pay the taxes if our politicians squander it on creating crazy expensive control functions on our last free forum; The Internet. I would ask all EU-politicians considering this to move to the US instead, and suck up to Trump. That is the only person as weak minded and thoroughly bought by Big Business I can think of. Remember Brexit and what it would mean for the European Union if essentially ALL our youth living digital lifes becomes considered criminals. Get a grip on reality and level up our freedoms instead of taking them away one at a time in the name of control and money.

  4. 4
    m c kubiak

    “Truly terrible copyright expansion.”
    Does EU really want to be mini-Trump?

  5. 5
    Torbjörn Rehnstedt

    Stoppa detta vansinnesförslag

  6. 6
    BOTTARELLI GIANFRANCO

    HAI PERFETTAMENTE RAGIONE ! CONTINUA PURE LA NOSTRA BATTAGLIA

  7. 7

    stop detrroying internet

  8. 8
    Wouter van der Put

    Good work @Julia Reda !

  9. 9
    J de Vries

    Julia, I agree and think it must be tough for you to stand up against this. I get a very strong feeling that the European Parliament does not realize witch big consequences this can have. I hope you can make a fist and stand strong and have a good plan to do this.
    Ask the European Parliament what they want for the future? how that exactly looks like.
    Because than you can ex-plane and have a platform why the things they are about to say yes to are not in the best interest to their future plans en believes. Good luck !

  10. 10

    I support Social Democrat MEP Catherine Stihler’s efforts to take everyone’s proposed changes and develop a compromise that a majority of MEPs can stand behind for the new Copyright Directive. I reject MEP Pascal Arimont’s efforts to sabotage that effort.

  11. 11
    Cyril Gleeson

    I am opposed to any efforts to stifle or censor opinion, particularly at EU level. This type of proposed legislation would make the EU into a “Big Brother” who is watching you. Already this institution is regularly interfering in nation members’ affairs. “The price of liberty is constant vigilance.”

  12. 12
    Pontus Hassbjer

    Stop this!

  13. 13
    Herbert Stoeri

    The internet is about sharing information and opinions. If someone does not like this, the person/company/institution can put the content onto a password protected site and no-one will place a link to that piece of information. If it is publicly available, it must be possible to point other people to it, i.e. place a link or copy a sniplet of text.

    The same must hold for using information for educational purposes.

  14. 14

    Living with copyright law for the last 60 years (yes sixty years) has worked OK for me! The internet seems to have added more freedom and that IS A GOOD THING. More and more law is just another way to undermine freedom.
    There has been lots of argument that “the internet is different” but so what? Freedom of mass communication is the thing that frightens established controllers.
    I find it stimulating and encouraging. Stop this nonsense.

  15. 15

    I do not fully understand. To help me understand, please answer this question. Do you mean that if I read a newspaper article and wanted to share it with persons over the internet, that I can be prosecuted for copyright infringement?

    • Christopher Clay

      If this proposed law passes, then: If the way you share an article includes an excerpt (image thumbnail, headline, part of the text) – like it automatically does when you share on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social networks) – then yes, that would be a copyright infringement.

  16. 16

    The fact remains that even if this is passed, it will not stop piracy. People will just use foreign hosted sites instead.

    (Also I’ll bet Mr. Arimont uses youtube to listen to music.)

  17. 17

    Le partage, la communication, la transmission de savoirs, connaissances et informations, pour la culture générale et l’éducation ne doivent pas être entravés!
    Sharing, communicating and transmitting knowledge, information, for cultural and educational purposes must not be censored!

  18. 18
    Valeriu Bogaciu

    I’m afraid by that dark perspective that so-called “alternative compromise” is throwing upon us!

  19. 19
    Lemaire Joseph

    Stop this nonsense of destroying the value of internet

  20. 20
    Βασίλης Λεμοντζόγλου

    How about filtering what all these meps are uploading to the mics or downloading to papers.
    How would that affect what they are (suposed to be) doing at their posts that … wait are they filtered?

What do you think?