18 December 2018Copyright

Negotiations on EU copyright reform to rumble into 2019

Discussions to finalise the language of the EU’s controversial copyright directive will continue into the New Year, as negotiators last week failed to agree on the language of the draft legislation.

On Thursday, December 13, German politician Julia Reda, who is a member of the European Parliament,  said that no overall agreement had been reached following the final negotiation session of the year.

The Parliament  voted in favour of modernising EU copyright law in September, but interest groups and industry associations have  raised a number of concerns about the directive.

One of the sections causing upset is article 13, which would require internet platforms to filter content to detect copyright infringements.

In September, the Electronic Frontier Foundation warned that article 13 sets the stage “for mass, automated surveillance and arbitrary censorship of the internet” by requiring platforms to examine all posts, from tweets to software code, and censor anything potentially infringing.

At the time, Reda similarly noted that the filters will be “error-prone” and result in “perfectly legal content” being censored. More than four million constituents have now  signed a petition opposing the provision.

Industry leaders—such as  Google and  YouTube—have also spoken out about article 13.

Following the vote, the directive started going through the ‘trilogues’, a process where the Parliament, Commission and Council negotiate in an effort to produce a final version of the law before the final draft is presented to the Parliament for a vote.

But in November,  lawyers told WIPR that a leaked document indicated little progress had been made to address criticisms levelled at article 13.

Discussions were intended to come to a close, with a final agreement on the draft due to be reached last week.

But, as noted by James Seadon, partner at  Fieldfisher in London, it appears that the controversies over the EU’s copyright reform are “rumbling on” as the last set of trilogue negotiations concluded with no such agreement taking place.

Robert Guthrie, partner at  Osborne Clarke in London, explained: “The main sticking point appears to be article 13, with the European Council looking for stronger pro-copyright owner provisions and Parliament's proposals being more favourable to Google's YouTube and other platforms—although there are competing voices within Parliament which is complicating the negotiations.”

Seadon said it is unsurprising that the legislation has provoked such strong responses, as article 13 “goes to the heart of the way in which we use the internet, and how rights can be policed”.

Another trilogue negotiation is now scheduled to take place on January 14.

Guthrie said: “The Commission will be keen to get this resolved early in the New Year, especially as EU parliamentary elections in May could result in a Parliament that is more resistant to these proposals.

“Whether they succeed or not is difficult to predict, but we can expect a concerted effort—and more frantic lobbying—in the New Year."

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