On 12 September, in the corridors of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, uncertainty about the outcome of the vote on the new Copyright Directive was palpable, as the media were echoing a possible rejection of the Directive.
Since the vote on 5 July, when the European Parliament (EP) rejected the negotiation mandate of the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI), the battle of arguments for or against the Directive has been fierce. Organisations supporting the Directive recharged their campaigns with ammunitions to debunk the apocalyptic prediction of their opponents, demonstrating that creators are real people in need of regulation. Our main contribution was the Venice Declaration signed by 170 filmmakers and video interviews of some of them. ‘Europe For Creators’ also organised demonstrations outside the EP in Strasbourg on the eve of the vote. On the other side, the hashtag #SaveTheInternet was tagged all over the city’s streets and the statute of Gutenberg was marked as “censored”.
I have to confess that the positive result caught me by surprise: clear and large majorities supporting the rapporteur’s amendments which refined the JURI report to take into account concerns on Articles 11 and 13.
What made the difference between the votes in July and September?
In July, I think we overestimated MEPs’ trust in JURI, which consists of only a few members compared to other committees. We took for granted that MEPs who are not in JURI would trust their colleagues who worked on this topic. This may have been the case without the campaign organised by Ms. Reda, the Pirate Party representative in the EP and shadow rapporteur for the Greens.
By rejecting the mandate to open negotiations with the other European institutions, the plenary decided that it was up to them, not JURI, to decide on the content of the new Copyright Directive. However, with the summer break, time was short to trigger new discussions and come to an agreement. Instead of new compromises, 166 amendments were tabled in addition to the 86 JURI amendments. Each and every possible approach to Articles 11 and 13 was therefore tabled, ranging from deletions to improvements. Not the best conditions for a vote in plenary.
In the end, the argument that had the most effect on MEPs was probably the one about European sovereignty. MEPs did not vote based on fears of apocalyptic consequences their intervention on copyright in the online environment may have. On the contrary, they dismissed the threat that respect for authors’ rights would mean the end of the internet. They instead reaffirmed their right to frame the European legal framework, whatever the origin and size of the companies that dominate the market.
I left Strasbourg with a smile and a sense of relief. The EP delivered an essential message to the world and to the big tech companies in Silicon Valley: MEPs stand up for their creators, the people who make a living from their authors’ rights and nurture European creativity and the culture that we all enjoy.
This crucial vote will now allow the negotiation process to go forward so that a final adoption of the Directive can be expected before the European elections. In spite of a strong EP position on Chapter 3 and the principle of fair and proportionate remuneration (Art -14) confirmed by the plenary, we still need to convince the Member States and the Commission to take this on board.
I can’t guarantee that the series’ next season will be less dramatic and suspenseful. Watch this space.
126 prominent screenwriters and directors across Europe have come together to call on the legislators of the European Union to seize the momentum of the adoption of the Copyright Directive in the Digital Single Market to support Europe’s creators in the online environment.