The endgame for EU copyright laws

FT subscribers can click here to receive Brussels Briefing every day by email.

Ready or not, here he comes. Wyclef Jean is in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday.

It’s another slice of novelty news spawned by a battle about EU rules affecting internet companies and creatives that, for the last two years, has sucked in celebrities and helped feed the Brussels lobbyist machine. 

Wyclef will be pushing MEPs to vote on Wednesday against draft EU copyright laws that have been called the “death of the internet” and the “end of memes”. It’s long running tussle that should come to a denouement this week.

The campaigns for and against the copyright changes have involved ex-Beatles, Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales, Stephen Fry, award-winning war journalists, US tech giants, and now, the former Fugee. 

At stake is the first update of European copyright rules for over 15 years. Back then, musicians, artists, and authors were not considered “content creators” and didn’t need search engines or streaming sites to make a living. The European Commission’s idea to update copyright rules was meant to create a fair way for rights holders to get paid for their work in the digital age.

Wyclef is in Strasbourg arguing against one of the most controversial parts of the plans, which would require platforms to pre-scan user generated content to make sure it doesn’t break copyright rules (“upload filters”). Unlike many in the music industry — including Sir Paul McCartney — Wyclef thinks it will hurt rather than protect artists. Others say it will outlaw memes.

Another sore point is a so called “link tax” that would force Google and others to pay news websites for hosting hyperlinks to their stuff. Media giants like Agence France-Presse — backed by the French state — are supporters arguing the revenues can help sustain quality journalism (here’s an easy to read version of the whole text). 

Earlier this summer, MEPs decided they needed more time to think after opposition reached nearly 1m signatures in an online petition. Parliamentarians have spent the last three months fighting about alternative versions of the two most toxic ideas to seal a deal this week. But they seem as far apart as ever.

More than 200 possible amendments have been tabled, with the main ones due to come to a vote on Wednesday. The EU’s big political groups are split. There’s still an outside chance the vote might not happen at all if the parliament’s president decides the whole thing is just too messy. 

The commission has told the FT that no deal is not better than a bad deal. It wants parliament to find a compromise on Wednesday or risk the whole initiative being shelved until a new crop of MEPs are elected in May. 

Whatever the outcome, one way or another, plenty will be relieved to see the back of this debate once and for all. 

Chart du jour: Is there a Brexit boom?

Not too shabby from the UK economy. Economists have been left a little befuddled by better than expected rolling GDP stats which show the UK expanded at a rate of 0.6 per cent in the three months to July. Delphine Strauss tries to pick out the signal from the noise of the “Brexit boom”.

Trans-Europe Express

Swedish fallout
Sweden’s social democrat PM is facing calls to step down despite his party retaining its position as the largest in the country. ( FT). With extended coalition talks looming, economist Tino Sanandaji thinks it’s time for all parties to address “mutual distrust” in a country dominated by a stifling consensus culture (Politico).

Chemnitz: the inquest 
The head of Germany’s domestic spying agency is under pressure from left and right to explain comments doubting the authenticity of videos showing far-right protesters harassing immigrants in the town of Chemnitz (Der Spiegel, FAZ).

Orban’s fightback 
Hungary’s government has delivered a 110-page “information sheet” to MEPs and EU governments defending its policies on NGOs, immigrants and George Soros. It comes ahead of a Strasbourg debate on the rule of law that kicks off at 3pm on Tuesday (CET). 

“A diatribe in disguise” 
Guy Chazan dismantles an early chart-topping book in Germany from Thilo Sarazzin, a former Bundesbank member, on Islam, identity and integration: 

“Anyone looking for a reasoned reaction or keen to understand Islam’s role in the world should probably avoid this diatribe disguised as a serious work of scholarship. If it deserves to be read at all then purely as a symptom of our populist era, with its proliferation of opinion disguised as truth and appeals to humanity’s worst instincts.”

CSU in the doldrums
Marcus Söder and Horst Seehofer are once again on speaking terms — a sign of just how worried they are about the CSU heading towards a historic low in Bavaria’s state elections (Süddeutsche Zeitung).

Free money (maybe)
A Swiss village is experimenting with universal basic income — if they can crowdsource the funding (Bloomberg).

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @mehreenkhn

Zoomd Trends

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.