In a major blow to copyright reform in the EU, MEPs have voted against beginning negotiations on the Copyright Directive including Article 13, which contained measures to address the so-called value gap.
There had been frantic lobbying from both sides with even Sir Paul McCartney attempting to persuade MEPs to vote for the Copyright Directive, which had been approved by the JURI committee last month.
The music industry was united on the need to introduce legislation to tackle the value gap surrounding user-generated content on video upload services such as YouTube. But the tech and online sector lobbied hard on the issue of internet freedom, which led to accusations of misinformation about the impact of Article 13.
German MEP Axel Voss, who has led the attempted passage of the Copyright Directive legislation, spoke in Parliament shortly before the vote and called out “lies” about the proposals.
“It’s an end of the exploitation of artists on the internet,” he told fellow MEPS, arguing the global online giants had made “huge profits at the cost of creatives”.
But amid calls from other MEPs for a broad-based debate later in the year, the vote was lost by 318 to 278. The legislation is now on hold and will go before a full debate in September.
UK Music CEO Michael Dugher described it as "sad day for everyone involved in the creativity that is behind Britain’s world-leading music".
“It is desperately disappointing that a small majority of MEPs have backed Google’s shabby multi-million euro campaign of fake news and misinformation against creators. Frankly, in some cases MEPs were naive. In other cases, they have chosen to wilfully disregard the plight of creators. These proposals would make a real difference to our creators, to those that invest in them and to all of us who value our culture.
“Google’s YouTube is the world’s most popular music platform, yet it deliberately chooses to return a pittance to those whose creativity it has built its multi-billion pound business model on. Google remain the vultures that feed off music creators. The fact remains that this must end.
“We sincerely thank the 278 MEPs who backed reform and look forward to engaging positively with all MEPs on the opportunities to develop the Directive further. We may have lost this particular round, but the fight to ensure fairness for music creators goes on.”
Helen Smith, IMPALA executive chair, said: "The result underlines that although many parliamentarians were satisfied, others were simply not ready to decide. It is like a second reading. This will take place in September.”
"Today’s decision means there will be another debate. We are confident that in September the Parliament will reach a conclusion and secure a fair and sustainable internet. Platforms facilitate a unique relationship between artists and fans, and copyright reform should help rebalance the licensing framework around this."
Geoff Taylor, chief executive BPI & BRIT Awards, said: “We respect the decision by MEPs to have a plenary discussion on the draft Copyright Directive. We will work with MEPs over the next weeks to explain how the proposed Directive will benefit not just European creativity, but also internet users and the technology sector.”
This vote is a set-back but it is not the end
David El Sayegh, SACEM
David El Sayegh, SACEM’s secretary general, said: “This vote is a set-back but it is not the end. SACEM remains dedicated to ensuring that creators are recognised and remunerated for the value of their work. We will not be discouraged by today’s decision and will continue to mobilise the support of musicians and music lovers across the world, in the hopes of reaching a fair agreement with these platforms that will safeguard the future of the music industry.
“We are confident that the European Parliament will eventually support a framework that fully acknowledges the rights of creators in the digital landscape of the 21st century.”
Robert Ashcroft, chief executive, PRS for Music, said: “It is perhaps unsurprising considering the unprecedented level of lobbying and the comprehensive campaign of misinformation which has accompanied this vote that MEPs want more time to consider the proposals. The vote showed that many MEPs across the various European political parties understand the importance of fixing the transfer of value and of a well-functioning market for copyright. We appreciate their support and hope that as we move forward to the Plenary debate in September, more MEPs will recognise the unique opportunity to secure the EU’s creative industries.
“From the outset our primary focus of this legislation has been concerned with whether or not the internet functions as a fair and efficient marketplace – and currently, for artists and authors, it doesn’t. They want their creative works to be heard, they embrace technology, but they want to be paid fairly. We will continue to fight for what we believe is their freedom and a fair use of their creative works.”
Smith also raised the issue of “misinformation” about the proposals.
She said: "Copyright aside, the hijacking of the process raises fundamental questions about how incumbent platforms and supposedly objective operators abuse their position. It underlines the need for greater transparency and scrutiny, especially with actors who have huge potential to influence public opinion and are not shy about using it."
Anders Lassen, GESAC president, said “This vote was never about censorship or freedom of speech. It was only about updating the copyright rules to the 21st century and ensuring that creators get a fair remuneration when their works are used in the digital space. The legal services of the EU institutions and specialised agencies in the EU have given evidence to support the compliance and necessity of the rules proposed by the text, yet unfortunately manipulative campaigns orchestrated by tech giants based on scaremongering prevailed on this occasion. We are confident that the European Parliament will finally approve what is right for the future of the EU’s economy, competitiveness and fundamental values against these global forces”.
Véronique Desbrosses, GESAC GM, added: “We represent the voices of Europe’s creators and will never stop fighting until they get the fairness and the rights they deserve, to enable them to continue expressing themselves freely. We are immensely grateful to all the MEPs who have supported us and hope that the others will come to understand our point of view.”
CISAC President Jean Michel Jarre said: “Today is a great disappointment for millions of creators who have campaigned for years for the right to fair treatment and fair payment from giant internet platforms. It is incredibly disappointing that, having been ferociously lobbied by opponents using false arguments, the European Parliament has stopped short of supporting the fair rights of creators. Our fight will go on, for the future of our culture and for a fair, modern well-regulated Internet.”
CISAC director general Gadi Oron said: “Today’s vote is a missed opportunity to fix one of the biggest problems in today’s digital market. It leaves an unfair situation in which the value of creative works , instead of benefitting their creators, is being used to enrich global technology platforms. CISAC will continue to campaign worldwide for a fair digital market for our members."
Paul Pacifico, CEO of AIM said: “It is a shame not to have got resolution for performers and songwriters in today’s committee vote on the JURI text. However, it is right that such an important and complex issue be given full consideration by parliament in a second reading. I remain optimistic that the European Parliament will cut through the fake news and massive lobbying spend by Big Tech and support creators by voting in favour of a diverse and level playing field for Artists and culture for the future.”
Dr Harald Heker, CEO of GEMA, said: “Today is a bad day for Europe’s culture and creative industries. The decision of the European Parliament weakens the position of all creators. An unprecedented disinformation campaign has caused confusion and torn down the cultural value system.”
MMF CEO Annabella Coldrick commented: “It was disappointing that today’s vote didn’t go through. This would be an important stepping stone towards a properly functioning market, and we believe the proposal would increase the levers available to UK music makers to achieve fair, proportionate and transparent remuneration for the use of their music online. We will be working closely with our colleagues at UK Music and in the wider industry in the build up to the European Parliament’s vote on the Directive in September.”
The measures had been backed with strong support in the run-up to the vote by the BPI, IFPI, CISAC, PRS For Music, PPL, AIM, UK Music and BASCA. Google/YouTube has made no comment during the legislative process.
Sophie Goossens, digital media expert at global law firm Reed Smith, said: “These new rules would create an obligation for content sharing platforms, such as YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, to license copyrighted material or prevent the availability of copyrighted material on their platform, as opposed to having to remove such content upon notice from their copyright holders, as is the case today.”
Another lawyer, Nicholas Buckland, senior associate at Lewis Silkin, said: “This will be a blow to rights-holders, who have been vocal for a long time about the need for fair remuneration from sites such as YouTube, but MEPs simply could not ignore the sheer number of people who have concerns over possible effects of the Directive on freedom of speech.
“Lawmakers now have the challenge of revising the draft to satisfy those who have concerns over freedom of speech, but at the same time keeping the stated aim of fairer remuneration for rights-holders, which may prove to be a difficult balancing act.”