EU Parliament Members Play Hardball On Terrible Copyright Policies, Article Highlighting Sketchy Tactics Magically Disappears

from the not-cool dept

Last week we wrote about how the new proposal for the EU Copyright Directive has some really destructive ideas in it, and is very close to becoming official. Last week (on GDPR day) the various EU member states basically gave the proposal their blessing, and the only thing left is that the Legal Affairs Committee in the EU Parliament who will vote on June 20th (or possibly the 21st). Many, many experts have raised serious concerns about elements of the proposal — including the link tax and the mandatory filters for content, both of which will create tremendous problems for innovation and speech online. We’ll have even more on this next week, but for now, it’s worth looking at just how messed up the lobbying process has gone as supporters of the bill (including big publishers and legacy copyright industries) want to get it across the finish line, apparently not caring very much how they do so.

Earlier this week, MEP Julia Reda alerted the world to an article in EU Today, which described how the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) was using another party, the EPP, to basically shake down other MEPs to get them to vote, saying that if they didn’t do so, they will effectively be stripped of all power, blocked from being given reports or parliamentary positions. At one point the article said the following:

But the German EPP party has been accused of ?openly lobbying? on behalf of Axel Springer by contacting members of the legal affairs committee and urging them to back the proposals in a vote by the committee on 20 and 21 June.

It is claimed that some committee members have been told of ?possible repercussions? if they fail to support the proposal.

They have allegedly been told that to ?stay away? from the meeting if they intend to reject the new law, with substitute members, who are more sympathetic to the plans, lined up to vote instead.

British MEP Dan Dalton, a member of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committee (LIBE), said: ?I am not surprised by this, given how controversial this issue is, even within the EPP. But it doesn?t reflect well on the EPP that they want to silence their own members on an issue as controversial as this.? Dalton, a member of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group and who opposes the so-called ?neighbouring right? in the directive, added, ?By resorting to these methods it only further demonstrates that there are huge concerns throughout the European parliament, including within the EPP with the neighbouring right.

In the screenshot that Julia posted, there are other details:

If you can’t see that, it says:

A member of the JURI committee, who said he did not wish to be named, said, “I know that several members of our committee have come under huge pressure to vote in favour of this particular proposal. The German CDU, via its EPP affiliate, has been reportedly pressuring them to vote what you might call the ‘right’ way. As part of their efforts to convince them to do this there have been reports of threats of members not being allocated reports and parliamentary positions if, basically, they don’t do as they are told. The alleged involvement of the German publishers gives cause for some concern.

He added, “I understand how things work in this parliament and lobbying is part and parcel of the EU decision making process but when it comes to ‘threats and warnings’ that is crossing a line.”

That part of the article is not in the version I see in the Internet Archive, but rather in Reda’s tweeted screenshot. However, the Google cache version I currently see includes the quote that Reda screenshotted. You can also see it on Archive.Today.

And if you’re wondering why I have to point to the Internet Archive version, the Archive Today version, and the Google Cache version, it’s because EU Today magically decided to entirely memory hole the original article. It does not exist. You don’t even get a typical 404 page, but rather the following error message: “Unable to find the template “_layout” in “404” at line 19.” Someone was apparently in quite a rush to make that article disappear.

Instead, EU Today published a “similar” article by the same reporter, Martin Banks. Incredibly, the new version, is… well… quite different. It notes in one sentence that “German publishers have strenuously denied knowledge of members being put under any undue pressure on the issue by the EPP” which is an odd statement in the first place, because why would German publishers know what’s happening in the EU unless… they were involved in it. But then the EU Today piece gets even odder. Rather than following up on any of what it originally reported, and then memory holed, instead it flips the script and claims that the real heavy handed lobbying is coming from those darn internet companies:

Rather, it is claimed that what lobbying has taken place has been by the “big internet players” with one MEP saying, “Much pressure is being put on MEPs but this is coming from big internet players against the neighbouring rights for the press publishers.”

Later, the article posts an entire statement from the German Press Publishers Association, which is pushing for the link tax, and expresses its support with the following utter nonsense:

A spokesman for the German Press Publishers Association also told this website they were unaware of any such pressure being applied.

?We got the impression that there is a very lively and open discussion in the Committee.We support the draft of the European Commission and have welcomed the recent decision in the Council,? added the spokesman.

The publishers go on to state, ?To remain competitive and independently financed, Europe?s publishers need to be able to compete on all platforms.

?Whilst publishers have successfully transitioned from analogue to digital, they will only reach their potential with an appropriate and updated legal framework that addresses the complexities of online copyright and licensing and gives publishers the legal resource to protect their investment in the original, professional content that underpins the freedom of the press and democracy.?

They add, “What publishers need is a ?publishers? right? granting publishers the legal protection and clarity already afforded to broadcasters and film and music producers.”

Of course this is laughable. We’ve already seen how this has played out in practice in both Germany (where it flopped and where publishers sheepishly agreed to give a free license to Google after Google stopped including snippets), and in Spain where it did massive damage to independent news providers.

There is no need for this law and basically everyone other than giant legacy publishers are against the link tax, recognizing that it would harm just about everyone else, including everyday internet users, smaller publishers and smaller internet platforms (the big guys can pay). Of course, maybe that’s the goal of the big publishers: to harm smaller competitors.

Still, it is quite incredible the EU Today posted details of thuggish threats trying to pressure MEPs on the Legal Affairs Committee to support this, and then disappeared all of those quotes, and appears to have replaced them with a new article that accuses the other side of lobbying too aggressively, though the only evidence given is publishers saying this and then an MEP complaining about receiving some emails. Emails lobbying for a position are quite different than threatening to strip elected officials of power if they don’t vote for what is nothing more than a hand-out to a few large publishers.

I wanted to ask EU Today why they did this, but when I click on their “contact us” link it just takes me back to the top of the page. I was also looking for some background on EU Today, and found that their “about us” link also just returned me to the top of the page. The same is true for the privacy policy of the site, which may create some issues with the GDPR, but I guess that’s a whole other issue…

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Comments on “EU Parliament Members Play Hardball On Terrible Copyright Policies, Article Highlighting Sketchy Tactics Magically Disappears”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

obviously, the ‘thuggish threats’ were extended to EU Today and they caved! as for the big publishers trying to get the smaller companies quoshed, the whole idea is for every section of the entertainment industries to be in control of the Internet, under one main body, getting money from everyone for doing nothing! had people not been so gullible to begin with and courts/law enforcement/governments not been so keen to know exactly what all ordinary people were up to, every minute of every day, while protecting from the ordinary people the knowledge of what all these sections and the people mentioned above are up to, things would never have gotten to this stage. however, as every case to do with any section of the entertainment industries has gone to court and they have been granted a win, they have just gone on, demanding more and more for less and less with stronger penalties for anyone who dared to do something the industries didn’t/dont like! the planet is now being run by industries that thrive on make believe and music so imagine, if you will, what they will do when there is some impending crisis. you got it! deny everything, give it all away, blame everyone else, just as they have been doing for the last 150 years or more!!

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Our Glorious Leaders have no interest in veto-ing the expansion of copyright. Even the Labour party over here is all over it; something something hand or brain. The British are incredibly stubborn and pig-headed over principles. Practicalities — not so much.

Disclosure: I’m Irish, married to a British guy, and live in the UK. I see this all the flippin’ time and DON’T get me started on the toxic disaster area that is Brexit.

That One Guy (profile) says:

We've always been at war wi- I mean we've always had this right.

“Whilst publishers have successfully transitioned from analogue to digital, they will only reach their potential with an appropriate and updated legal framework that addresses the complexities of online copyright and licensing and gives publishers the legal resource to protect their investment in the original, professional content that underpins the freedom of the press and democracy.”

Makes sense. I mean currently if you want to tell someone about a book you need to pay a fee to do so. If you want to quote a printed article you need to get permission and pay for the privilege, and it’s a given that even mentioning a magazine to tell someone about it requires payment.

Given all this it makes sense that they are merely trying to equalize the ‘rights’ they currently enjoy for non-digital works with the newfangled ‘internet’ versions. It’s just fair after all, why should they have less rights in one instance than the other?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

With all of the actual issues facing the country, it is nice to see that they answer to corporations demands & ignore reality. They sky is falling for the content cartels, as it has for the last few hundred years, so they scramble to keep their grip on content to make sure they can wring every cent from things & make sure they fail to make things available to the public willing to pay them.

With the party flat out threatening people to do what the cartel wants or else, one really needs to take a look at the government & wonder how they care more about corporations wet dreams than the lives of citizens.

Hugo S Cunningham (profile) says:

Internet Free Europe?

Partly inspired by the Cold War “Radio Free Europe”, how feasible would it be for a consortium of universities and academics (both European and American), small and alternate websites, and Internet philanthropists to set up an overseas news aggregator (“Internet Free Europe”) of Europe’s alternate and minor websites, immune from EU legal coercion?

Michael Riendeau says:

Holy hell there is no escaping the end of the internet is there

How are we suppose to save the internet when governments all around the world seek to destroy it? Whether it’s Ajit Pai’s robbing my country of net neutrality or this shit, it seems like the corporate totalitarian end times really are upon us to throw the world into an Orwellian Dystipia nightmare!

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