European Parliament rejects controversial copyright reform plan

The European Parliament has rejected a controversial plan approved by its own legal affairs committee to update rules on copyright for the digital age.

Parliament’s plenary voted by 318 votes to 278, with 31 abstentions to reject the proposal to begin negotiations to update copyright laws, proposed by the Legal Affairs Committee on 20 June. As a result, Parliament’s position will now be up for debate, amendment, and a vote during the next plenary session, in September.

The European parliament’s rules state that if at least 10% of MEPs object to opening negotiations with the Council based on the text voted in committee, a plenary vote will be held. By the deadline of midnight on Tuesday, the requisite number of MEPs had lodged their objection.

After the vote, the rapporteur, German Christian Democrat MEP Axel Voss said: “I regret that a majority of MEPs did not support the position which I and the Legal Affairs Committee have been advocating. But this is part of the democratic process. We will now return to the matter in September for further consideration and attempt to address peoples’ concerns whilst bringing our copyright rules up to date with the modern digital environment.”

The legal affairs committee’s proposals, approved in June, had attracted substantial criticism from media industry groups.

Criticism had focused on article 13, which would require internet platforms such as Google and Facebook to prevent users from uploading copyrighted material, and for article 11, which would enable publishers to force internet platforms to pay them for showing news content.

On June 12 a group of 70 leading figures from the internet world, including world wide web creator Tim Berners-Lee and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, wrote an open letter to European parliament president Antonio Tajani urging a rethink.

However, industry observers see the Parliament’s rejection of the proposals primarily as a victory for internet giants that had lobbied intensively against the measures.

Ahead of the vote, French culture minister Francoise Thyssen had tweeted her support for the proposed measures. “It is necessary to regulate digital platforms to improve the remuneration of creators and the press when their works or their articles are distributed online,” she said.

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