Open Letter on the Commission’s flawed Online Platform Consultation

A woman shouting into a man's ear-trumpet. Wood engraving.
Consulting without listening?
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Last week we have pointed out our concerns about a number of copyright related questions buried deep inside the EU commission’s ongoing consultation on the ‘Regulatory environment for platforms, online intermediaries, data and cloud computing and the collaborative economy‘. Our main points were that the consultation does not adequately address the effects of regulatory measures aimed at platforms on EU citizens and that the consultation is designed in such a way that it discourages end users from participating.

Today we have relayed these concerns in letters to First Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans (who is in charge of the better regulation agenda) and Members of the European Parliament. These letters are supported by 29 organisations representing civil society, news publishers, consumers and the digital industry share their concerns regarding the European Commission’s approach in consulting on copyright matters. The letter makes it clear that we are not the only ones who consider the online platforms consultation to be flawed:

The Commission’s “Online Platforms consultation” includes some questions on copyright, which had not previously been the subject of consultation. However, critical questions dealing with the creation of new, controversial copyrights for publishers are only open to right holders to answer, denying European citizens and relevant stakeholders the right to be heard. Further, the Commission is set to adopt a Communication on Copyright on 9th December, which covers these issues, before the end of the consultation and a proper analysis of the contributions received.

The letter letter to VP Timmermans urges the commission to uphold its own better regulation principles, and  to ensure that:

  • Communications are not released before the end of consultations that are relevant to the subject at hand, and that detailed impact assessments are published before legislative proposals;
  • All EU citizens, associations and businesses can participate in Commission consultations and that they are able to respond to any of the questions posed in them;
  • Detailed impact assessments are published before legislative proposals;

The first of these points is a reference to the Commission’s plan to adopt its communication on copyright on the 9th of December – long before the consultation closes on the 30th of December. Given that the communication is known to also address issues related to the regulatory environment for online platforms, the timing of the communication casts serious doubts on the willingness of the Commission to listen to public input from stakeholders.

This is made even worse by the fact that Internet users have made it clear that they do care about the copyright rules for platforms. In less than a week Save the Link’s Internet voice tool has received input from more than 9.000 end users expressing their views on key issues covered by the Commission’s platform legislation. They (and all other stakeholders involved in this debate) deserve to be heard by the Commission before the Commission makes up its mind on how to approach the long overdue modernisation of the EU copyright rules.

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