Joy for meme fans, despair for musicians as EU lawmakers reject copyright changes

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LONDON – Memes makers, rejoice!

European Parliament lawmakers on Thursday rejected a new copyright proposal – previously approved by a key EU committee – that digital rights activists say would change the free and open nature of the internet.

Article 13 of the European Copyright Directive would have given the responsibility for the application of copyright laws to platforms such as Google and Facebook, and would have obliged them to use recognition technologies. content – called “censorship machines” by critics – to filter out images, sound, code or footage that infringes copyright.

The proposed law had sparked heated debate over how it would affect creativity on the internet and affect the power dynamics between large corporations and start-ups.

Jim Killock, executive director of the London-based digital rights organization Open-Rights Group, said in a statement after the vote: “The first round of the Robo-Copyright wars is over. The European Parliament has recognized that automatic censorship of copyrighted material is not an easy and straightforward solution. “

One of the strangest issues was the argument that legislation might unintentionally scuttle the culture of memes. Memes invariably reuse images or clips to create online jokes and often fall outside copyright law.

Opponents of the legislation have also argued that content recognition technologies would be unable to effectively make legal and cultural judgments.

Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia and leading opponent of the legislation, told BBC Radio 4 Today ahead of Thursday’s vote: “We need to think about how we use and explore music and other work in our lives. .

“You’re at your kid’s birthday party, and you’re downloading something, and there’s music playing in the background,” Wales said. “I don’t think an artist would say it’s a violation… but what we don’t want to see are people doing just ordinary things [being punished]. “

Wales has also said it fears the legislation will benefit platforms that can afford to implement the technologies, which in turn hurts smaller rivals.

“One of my biggest concerns is that we would only strengthen the power of Google and Facebook, which already have the technical capacity to do it, and small players and start-ups are going to be left out because they would take it on. the cost. that, ”Wales said.

Another controversial part of the proposed directive was Article 11, which would have required platforms like Google, Microsoft and others to pay publishers for news clips.

The legislation had the backing of musical groups and news publishers. They had hoped that the legislation would protect and improve the rights of intellectual property holders over audio, video and news content.

Former Beatle Paul McCartney had written to Parliament ahead of Thursday’s vote, urging them to support the proposal’s mandate. He said the legislation “will close the value gap and help secure a sustainable future for the music ecosystem and its creators.”

The directive was approved by the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee last month. However, after an aggressive lobbying operation by digital rights activists, enough lawmakers dissented to force a vote in the European Parliament’s hemicycle.

The parliamentary vote would have given approval to EU leaders to start negotiations with individual member states. The rejection means that legislation has now essentially been sent back to the drawing board. Parliament will debate and vote again on the proposals in September.

“Anyone in Europe who wants this fixed will have to work hard to ensure that Parliament offers a reasonable path forward by September,” said Killock of the Open Rights Group.

Julia Reda, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from the German Pirate Party and Vice-President of the Green Group in the European Parliament, has been one of the biggest opponents of the legislation in the Assembly.

“We did it,” she said in a video posted to her Twitter account. “Together, we have shown today that important decisions about the future of the Internet cannot be made behind closed doors. But the fight is far from over.

Reda proposed a “#SaveYourInternet” day of action on August 26, ahead of the September vote.

Supporters of the legislation, however, expressed dismay. Axel Voss, German MEP from the center-right EPP group in the European Parliament, was responsible for pushing through the legislation.

In a statement on Thursday, he said: “We regret that the European Parliament rejected the mandate for negotiations with the Member States, as this could have been a real further step towards establishing legal certainty between the incumbents. of copyright and users on the Internet. . “

Voss also accused his opponents of “knowingly spreading fake news and acting only in the interests of the big online platforms.”

“What I regret is the massive scale of the false arguments used in recent weeks against the compromise,” read his statement.



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