When the Austrian government published its implementation proposal for Article 17 in December 2020 we called it “the most realistic implementation proposal yet“. On the 3rd of September the Austrian Ministry of Justice published a draft version of the implementation law covering all provisions of the CDSM directive, which includes revised provisions for implementing Article 17. And while this revised proposal maintains much of the approach contained in the previous draft, it contains some unfortunate regressions that undermine the user rights protections contained in the original draft.
Earlier this week, together with epicenter.works, Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte, Wikimedia Austria, Creative Commons Austria and the Cultural Broadcasting Archive we have submitted extensive comments in response to the new implementation draft (PDF, in German) which we summarise below.
Article 17: A combination of the German implementation and the worst ideas from the Commission guidance
One of the strongest elements of the original implementation proposal was that it combined some of the approaches to safeguarding user rights and to preventing overblocking first put forward by the German Ministry of Justice in its implementation proposals with an attempt to stick as closely as possible to the text of the directive. Where the German implementation proposal (which in the meantime has become law) introduced the provisions implementing Article 17 in an entirely new act, the Austrian proposal includes them into the existing copyright act. The new proposal both maintains this approach and continues to follow the lead of the German legislator when it comes to the user rights safeguards. Unfortunately it combines this approach with introducing some of the worst elements of the Article 17 implementation guidance issued by the Commission earlier this year, the so-called “earmarking” provisions for commercially valuable works that allow right-holders to opt-out of most user rights protections.
Today, after a 30-month long legislative procedure, the European Parliament voted on the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. Members of the Parliament approved the Directive, with 348 voting in favor and 274 voting against, and 36 abstaining.
The Directive is the most important European regulation of the digital sphere in the last several years. It will define the shape of copyright in Europe for years to come — and have spillover effects for regulation around the globe. We believe that the approved directive will not meet the goal of providing a modern framework that balances the interests of rightsholder and users, protects human rights and enables creativity and innovation to flourish. Instead, it is a biased regulation that supports one business sector, at the cost of European citizens.
In the last two and a half years, and especially since last June, we faced an extremely heated debate and intense legislative process. During this time, together with a broad coalition of activists, experts and organisations, we attempted to remove (or improve) its most controversial parts. In the last weeks, we supported an effort to amend the directive during the plenary, in a last attempt to remove the most detrimental provision — Article 13. Unfortunately, the European Parliament rejected a motion to vote on amendments to the Directive, with 312 MEPs voting in favor, and 317 voting against. This motion would have opened the door to remove Article 13 but keep the rest of the directive intact. It failed.
The Directive was therefore approved, with all the controversial elements that we have been criticising: content filters introduced by Article 13, new rights for publishers introduced by Article 11, and a mechanism for overriding copyright exceptions for education by private agreements introduced by Article 4/2.
European parliamentarians, together with the Commission and the governments of the Member States have given a strong signal of support to the entertainment industries and their incumbent players — at a dire cost to internet users and freedom of expression. We believe that it is an unbalanced approach that will have severe repercussions. These legal provisions will not only cost millions to small and medium sized European platforms, but most importantly put fundamental freedoms at risk and set dangerous precedents for user rights.
For the entire duration of the current EU copyright reform we have advocated that the press publishers right be deleted. Publishers already benefit greatly from the copyrights they have in their content, and don’t need an additional exclusive right to protect or exploit those rights. As is clear from past experiments with the right in Germany and Spain, an additional right for press publishers will not support quality journalism, increase the diversity of media content, or grow the digital single market. Instead, it will negatively affect access to information and the ability for publishers to share using the platforms, technologies, and terms beneficial to them. The existing problem can be addressed by observing a legal presumption that press publishers are entitled to enforce the rights over the works or other subject matter that are licensed to them.
But here we are now years later in the thick of the trilogue negotiations, and the EU legislator is finally trying to figure out what to do about Article 11. Similar to Article 13 and content filter, we expect that the final compromise text of the directive will include some version of the press publishers right.
The waivable press publishers right
Our long-held view remains: Article 11 should be removed from the copyright directive. The provision is patently harmful to journalism, access to information, and the digital single market. The option to make the press publishers right waivable is simply one way to slightly improve the press publishers right if deletion is impossible. If the negotiators can’t be convinced by the mountains of research, empirical evidence observed in prior trials, and near universal public opposition to this unnecessary right, then the legislator must do everything it can to mitigate the negative effects that would be faced by news publishers and news seekers in the EU. Continue reading
On 19 November 2018, 54 NGOs (including COMMUNIA) representing human rights and media freedom sent a letter to the Council of the European Union. The letter raises ongoing concerns regarding the proposal of the Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market. The signatories underline that the current proposal risks creating severe impediments to the functioning of the internet and the freedom of expression of all, and urge the Council to take citizens’ rights into consideration during the trilogue negotiations:
For the ongoing trilogue negotiations, we urge you to reject obligatory or “voluntary” coerced filters and to keep the current liability regime intact. Enforcement of copyright must not become a pre-emptive, arbitrary and privately-enforced censorship of legal content.
Moreover, we ask you to hear the voice of academic research that a press publishers’ right will not have the intended effect and will instead lead to a less informed European society.
The letter is not only another call for a productive re-shaping of the future European copyright framework. It is also a strong voice against the predominant market-only narrative around the ongoing reform. NGOs continue to raise concerns related not just to the economic impact of the new Directive, but its deep influence on society, openness, fundamental rights and access to knowledge.
You can read the letter here (pdf).
Not surprisingly, the letter focuses on the most disputed provisions–Article 13 upload filters and Article 11 ancillary copyright for press publishers. Since the beginning of the legislative process COMMUNIA has worked on nearly all parts of the Directive comments (including the new educational exception, TDM provisions and others), and we regret that there seems to be little attention paid to these other important aspects as policymakers focus only on the most controversial parts of the plan.
Today, Communia and 145 organisations published an open letter to the Committee of the Permanent Representatives of the Governments of the Member States to the European Union (COREPER). That group meets tomorrow, and the Bulgarian presidency will be pushing for all Member States to endorse its proposed changes to the draft Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. Earlier this week we previewed these latest changes, warning that there’s danger ahead if the Council adopts the still-unsatisfactory updates to Article 13, 11, and 3a.
The letter is critical of the compromised proposed by the Bulgarian Presidency and calls upon COREPER to continue the discussions on the copyright reform. We ask for COREPER not grant the Bulgarian Council Presidency a mandate to negotiate with the European Parliament. From the letter:
We are deeply concerned that the text proposed by the Bulgarian Presidency in no way reflects a balanced compromise, whether on substance or from the perspective of the many legitimate concerns that have been raised. Instead, it represents a major threat to the freedoms of European citizens and businesses and promises to severely harm Europe’s openness, competitiveness, innovation, science, research and
With so many legal uncertainties and collateral damages still present, this legislation is currently destined to become nightmare when it will have to be transposed into national legislation and face the test of its legality in terms of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Bern Convention. We hence strongly encourage you to adopt a decision-making process that is evidence based, focussed on producing copyright rules that are fit for purpose and on avoiding unintended, damaging side effects.
The signatories of the letter include national organisations from across 25 EU Member States, representing human and digital rights groups, media freedom orgs, publishers, journalists, libraries, scientific and research institutions, educational institutions including universities, creator representatives, consumers, software developers, start-ups, technology businesses, and internet service providers. They repeat and amplify the voices raised previously to express their deep concerns about the artificial sense of urgency created by the Bulgarian Presidency.
(This week, two other important open letters were published: 169 professors of law and academics urge to oppose the new press publishers right. 55 European organizations do the same: “Enough is enough”).