Today was the latest set of "Trilogue" negotiations for the EU Copyright Directive, between the EU Council, the EU Commission and the EU Parliament. When the trilogues were first scheduled, this was the final negotiation and the plan was to hammer out a final agreement by today. As we've been reporting lately, however, it still appeared that there was massive disagreement about what should be in Article 13 (in particular). And so, today's meetings ended with no deal in place, and a new trilogue negotiation set for January 14th. As MEP Julia Reda reports, most negotiators are still pushing for mandatory upload filters, so there's still a huge uphill battle ahead -- but the more regulators realize how disastrous such a provision would be for the public, the better.
Also worrisome, Reda notes that after the Parliament rejected Article 13 back in July, MEP Axel Voss agreed to add an exception for small businesses that helped get the proposal approved in September. Yet, in today's negotiations, he agreed to drop that small business exception, meaning that if you run a small platform that accepts user generated content, you might need to cross the EU off your list of markets should Article 13 pass.
One other important thing. Earlier this week, we noted that the TV, film and sports legacy companies were complaining that if Article 13 included a basic safe harbor (i.e., rules that say if you do certain things to remove infringing content, you won't be liable), then they no longer wanted it at all -- or wanted it to just be limited to music content. That suggested there might be some separation between the film/TV/sports industries and the music industries. But, no. Right before the trilogues, the legacy recording industries released a similar letter:
The fundamental elements of a solution to the Value Gap/Transfer of Value remain, as acknowledged by all three institutions in their adopted texts, to clarify that UUC services now defined as Online Content Sharing Service Providers (“OCSSP”) are liable for communication to the public and/or making available to the public when protected works are made available and that they are not eligible for the liability privilege in Article 14 of the E-Commerce Directive as far as copyright is concerned. We continue to believe that only a solution that stays within these principles meaningfully addresses the Value Gap/Transfer of Value. Moreover, licensing needs to be encouraged where the rightsholders are willing to do so but at the same time not be forced upon rightsholders.
Therefore, proposals that deviate from the adopted positions of the three institutions should be dismissed.
Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, the text now put forward by the European Commission would need fundamental changes to achieve the Directive’s aim to correct the Value Gap/ Transfer of Value.
For example, solutions that seek to qualify or mitigate the liability of Online Content Sharing Service Providers should be considered with an abundance of caution to avoid the final proposal leaving rightsholders in a worse position than they are in now. Any “mitigation measures”, should they be offered to OCSSPs, must therefore be clearly formulated and conditional on OCSSPs taking robust action to ensure the unavailability of works or other subject matter on their services.
This is pretty incredible when you get passed the diplomatic legalese. These music companies are flat out admitting that the entire goal of this bill is to hit internet companies with crippling liability that makes it literally impossible for them to host any user generated content. This isn't -- as they claim -- about a "value gap" (a made up meaningless term). Rather this is the legacy entertainment industry going all in on an attempt to change the internet from a platform for the public, to a locked up platform for gatekeepers. In short, they want to take the internet and turn it into TV. Europe should not let this happen.