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20th Feb 2019

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Parliament to defang EU copyright reform

  • Copyright rapporteur Therese Comodini Cachia with Guenther Oettinger, former digital commissioner. (Photo: European Parliament)

The European Parliament looks set to bury the centrepieces of the European Commission's copyright reform.

According to a leaked report seen by EUobserver, the Maltese centre-right deputy and rapporteur Therese Comodini Cachia will suggest to scrap plans for extra rights to news websites and the music industry.

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The "publisher's right" would have forced Facebook, Google, and their smaller competitors to pay for headlines and article snippets they shared on their platforms.

Publishers say this income is crucial for them to survive in the digital age, but similar initiatives have proved to be unworkable when introduced on a national level in Germany and Spain.

Instead, Comodini Cachia suggests easier enforcement of copyright, giving not only authors but also publishers the right to go to court.

She also wants to set aside a proposal that would force internet platforms hosting large amounts of user-uploaded content - notably, Youtube - to automatically remove copyrighted material.

Critics say the proposal was badly written and would harm other websites, such as Wikipedia.

They say upload monitoring software often cannot tell infringement from legitimate use, such as satire or citations, and call the EU commission's proposal the "censorship machine".

The draft Comodini report also broadens the scope of a copyright exception for modern research, so called text and data mining.

The Commission said this should be limited to "research institutions" and "for the purposes of scientific research”, but the Maltese MEP wants to widen the right to all people.

Comodini Cachia wrote the report on behalf of the legal affairs committee, which is leading the negotiations.

The file was leaked after being sent for translation.

It will be debated for the first time on 22 or 23 March, and the rapporteur hopes to find an agreement before the end of the year.

The internal market, industry and culture committees have already voted their opinions, rejecting the same measures as the Maltese lawmaker.

The controversial measures were first put forward by Guenther Oettinger, a German member of the Commission who used to be in charge of the digital economy but who recently switched to the budget portfolio.

Oettinger was seen as close to German business and the publishing industry in particular.

The publishing industry, represented by the EMMA, ENPA, EPC and NME lobby groups, said in a joint statement the Comodini Cahcia report would "perversely encourage litigation" instead of incentivising licensing and innovative ways of making content available.

Julia Reda, a German pirate MEP and vice-chair of the Green group, said Comodini Cachia had fixed the worst proposals put forward by Oettinger, but that the reform remained "disappointingly unambitious".

"Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker promised to tear down national silos in copyright," Reda said.

"We are no closer to European harmonisation of the copyright framework, such as making all exceptions and limitations mandatory, or to address copyright issues internet users face on a daily basis," she added.

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