The European Council has voted to reject a negotiating mandate for controversial copyright reforms, effectively torpedoing a planned European Parliament vote on implementing the proposed changes which was to take place today.
Concerns about proposed changes to the European Copyright Directive were raised back in March by technology companies concerned that it could have a chilling effect on innovation and the sharing of legitimate content. Despite lobbying on the risks of Articles 11 and 13 - which were framed by critics as a 'link tax' and 'censorship machine' - matched, naturally, by lobbying on the opposite side by big media companies, the European Parliament's Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) approved the proposals in June. Although Parliament would vote down the proposal, it was returned to the table in September and finally accepted for negotiation after which another vote was to be taken in January 2019.
It's now January 2019, and the next vote in the process was to be taken today - only to have been cancelled by a vote by the European Council in which no consensus could be achieved. As explained by Member of European Parliament Julia Reda, of the pro-freedoms Pirate Party, on her blog, 11 countries - Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Finland, Slovenia, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Croatia, Luxembourg, and Portugal - voted against a modified, compromise version of the proposal. 'With the exception of Portugal and Croatia,' Reda explains, 'all of these governments are known for thinking that either Article 11 or Article 13, respectively, are insufficiently protective of users' rights. At the same time, some rightsholder groups who are supposed to benefit from the Directive are also turning their backs on Article 13.
'This surprising turn of events does not mean the end of Link Tax or censorship machines,' Reda warns, 'but it does make an adoption of the copyright directive before the European elections in May less likely. The Romanian Council presidency will have the chance to come up with a new text to try to find a qualified majority, but with opposition mounting on both sides of the debate, this is going to be a difficult task indeed. The outcome of today's Council vote also shows that public attention to the copyright reform is having an effect. Keeping up the pressure in the coming weeks will be more important than ever to make sure that the most dangerous elements of the new copyright proposal will be rejected.'
The European Parliament has not yet set a date for a new vote.