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:
CDU/CSU bedroht europ?ische Abgeordnete ihrer Fraktion: Wenn sie nicht f?r das #Leistungsschutzrecht stimmen, verlieren sie ihre Posten. Fraktionskollege spricht von ?besorgniserregender? Einmischung deutscher Verlage. https://t.co/9IYQxxP6HC #FixCopyright #SaveTheLink pic.twitter.com/qkjYf8Te3J
— Julia Reda (@Senficon) May 30, 2018
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.