Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Two-thirds majority in European Parliament's legal affairs committee (JURI) for proposed EU Copyright Directive with upload filters: 16-9

Unfazed by street protests, the European Parliament's traditionally IP-extremist Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) has just voted overwhelmingly in favor of an ill-conceived "compromise" bill on copyright (this post continues below the tweet):

16-9, or 64% v. 36%, does mean that, for the time being, everything has worked out just the way the proponents of the directive and Article 13 ("upload filters") wanted. But it does not make it a foregone conclusion that the plenary vote in late March or mid April will also result in a rubberstamping of the proposal.

I'm certainly not superstitious, but the fact of the matter is that I scored my two big victories in the plenary of the European Parliament after losing the committee votes:

  • In 2005, the same committee that voted for the copyright bill today (JURI) took a position on the software patent directive that was pretty much the opposite of what I wanted. But a then came the plenary vote, and an overwhelming majority (it was actually close to unanimity) threw out the bill, following a procedural agreement.

    That, too, was a legislative process involving IP, and a committee like JURI traditionally attracts many members with an unbalanced pro-IP perspective. That's not even a specifically European problem, but let's not digress into the situation in certain IP subcommittees on the other side of the pond.

  • In 2007. it was about soccer broadcasting rights, and delays on my client's side prevented me from taking action at the committee stage. Four committees had voted, with three taking extremely unbalanced positions, and in that case JURI was actually pretty unharmful because their position was more of a summary of the case law than a statement of political demands. The lead committee at the time was CULT (culture and education), which is even less balanced than JURI, just in the opposite direction (what both have in common is a lack of economic realism). Irrespectively of the situation in those committees, together with allies in the Parliament (British Tories, Spanish Partido Popular, UKIP) I built a majority for an amendment that kicked out an item from a resolution just the way the opponents of upload filters should now get Article 13 stricken.

So I'm speaking from successful experience as opposed to exhorting people to hold out as a matter of principle. Today is not a setback. In fact, a 55%-45% approval of the bill would already have been a surprise, like an upset victory (though technically it would have been a defeat), just because of JURI's unique composition that is not representative of the plenary.

That said, there is no question that a better strategy and a better execution than before will be needed to triumph this spring. A tweet by Julia Reda MEP lists the names of those committee members who voted for upload filters. And the following chart shows that we need more votes from center-right and right-of-center parties (this post continues below the tweet with some good news):

Shortly before the JURI vote, something positive happened in Germany, and in my next post I'll translate a statement by Germany's Federal Data Protection Commissioner that could prove quite helpful in the build-up to the European Parliament's plenary vote as well as the further process (if it isn't "game over" after the next vote), where the German government would again have the opportunity to oppose Article 13, i.e., upload filters.

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