Legacy Copyright Industries Lobbying Hard For EU Copyright Directive… While Pretending That Only Google Is Lobbying
from the because-of-course dept
Have you heard that all of the opposition to the EU Copyright Directive and its hugely problematic Articles 11 and 13 is really being driven by Google lobbying? Most of you probably realized this was nonsense, but it now turns out that not only was the lobbying almost entirely dominated by the legacy copyright players, but a key plank of their lobbying campaign was to falsely allege that all opposition was just Google.
If you’ve been paying attention at all to the crazy fights over the EU Copyright Directive, you may have heard some claims being passed around that it’s somehow “Google” lobbying heavily against the bill. Indeed, all over Twitter, that’s the talking point from tons of EU Copyright Directive supporters. After the EU Parliament put the brakes on the bill back in July, I even saw a former RIAA exec (who has since blocked me on Twitter, so I can’t show it to you) tweet that this was a clear perversion of the “will of the people” by Google’s corporate lobbying. Of course, it’s hilarious for that to come from an ex-RIAA exec, who was heavily involved over the past 3 decades in pushing through all sorts of protectionist, anti-public, anti-musician legislation and trade agreements.
But… it’s a talking point. And it’s one that lots of people have jumped on. Digital Music News, who is always quick to restate the recording industry’s talking points, claimed that Google spent more than $36 million lobbying over Article 13. Billboard Magazine published a similar claim. Various music industry groups, in what appeared to be closely coordinated messaging, all started blaming Google and “the tech giants” for any opposition to the EU Copyright Directive — which, mind you, would change the fundamental ways in which the internet works. Yet, in their minds, all of the opposition came from the internet giants.
Here’s Geoff Taylor from BPI:
The US tech lobby has been using its enormous reach and resources to try to whip up an alarmist campaign…
And here’s Richard Ashcroft from PRS for Music:
the Internet giants… have whipped up a social media storm of misinformation about the proposed changes in order to preserve their current advantage.
And how about UK Music’s Michael Dugher who really wants to blame Google for everything:
Some absolute rubbish has been written about the EU?s proposed changes on copyright rules.
Amongst the ludicrous suggestions from the likes of Google is the claim that the shake-up will mean the end of memes, remixes and other user-generated content. Some have said that it will mean ?censorship? and even wildly predicted it will result in the ?death of the internet?.
This is desperate and dishonest. Whilst some of the myths are repeated by people who remain blissfully untroubled by the technical but crucially important details of the proposed EU changes, in the worst cases this propaganda is being cynically pedalled by big tech like Google?s YouTube with a huge vested and multi-million-pound interest in this battle.
MEP Axel Voss, who was the EU Parliament Member who lead the charge on the Copyright Directive, and who has long been seen as being in the pocket of the copyright interests, even put out a press release recently blaming the tech giants and their lobbying:
After the vote, rapporteur Axel Voss (EPP, DE) said, ?I am very glad that despite the very strong lobbying campaign by the internet giants, there is now a majority in the full house backing the need to protect the principle of fair pay for European creatives.?
There’s been a lot more like that. On Twitter, whenever I talk about Article 13, the same crew that has been falsely attacking my views for years immediately start attacking me, claiming that it’s all Google lobbying against Article 13.
So… about that. The wonderful site Corporate Europe Observatory, has a very thorough and very in-depth write-up about just who is lobbying on the EU Copyright Directive. And, quite incredibly, it’s almost entirely dominated by all of those legacy copyright industries:
Since November 2014 there were 765 declared encounters between lobbyists and the Commission with ?copyright? as a subject 1 Over 93% of these were with corporate interests, but the list of main actors might be quite surprising: the lobbyists with the highest access were in fact not big tech, but the collecting societies, creative industries (including big film and music studios) and press publishers.
The most frequently listed names are: IFPI – Representing recording industry worldwide (37 meetings) whose members include Sony Music and Warner Music, followed by the Federation of European Publishers (27) which represents national associations of book publishers, and GESAC – the European lobby for collecting societies (25), whose members include big EU collecting societies such as PRS for Music, the US giant recording label Universal Music Group International (22), and the Society of Audiovisual Authors (22), which represents national collecting societies.
Of the top 20 lobbyists by meetings, only two represented tech interests ? Google, ranking number seven, and one of the trade associations it belongs to, DIGITALEUROPE, ranking 18th ? while one sole NGO, the independent consumer organisation BEUC, ranked 12th.
The real story is even worse than that. Because I have abundant free time, I went through the file that Corporate Europe Observatory linked to detailing these lobbying meetings, and I went through all 205 entities and added up how many lobbying meetings were held by legacy entertainment interests, tech interests or public interests. Here’s the breakdown:
While Corporate Europe Observatory lists 765 meetings, their spreadsheet actually shows 784. Also, there were a few organizations/lobbyists/lawyers where it was not exactly clear who they were lobbying for or on what side of the debate. To be as fair as possible, I simply included all of the ones I was unsure of into the “lobbying for tech” list. So, uh, for all the talk that Google was the one lobbying here, over 80% of the lobbying efforts came from the legacy copyright industries. That’s pretty stunning. Of course, it’s also disappointing to see that only 6% of the lobbying came from civil society groups. As CEO notes:
The voices of civil society organisations, small platforms, libraries, academics, citizens and even the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression were the collateral damage of the dispute between competing big business lobbies. Lobbyists and groups with a vested interest dominated the debate, while citizens? opinions and interests were crowded out of the discussion.
Very depressing. For what it’s worth, I included the “small platform” lobbying efforts in the “tech” list above (again, to be as careful as possible), but many of them view this issue even more strongly than Google, and are more focused on the public interest arguments.
Anyway, that chart is just for lobbying the EU Commission. CEO looks at some other available data for lobbying the EU Parliament as well (tragically, not that much info is public), but based on what is public it comes to the same conclusion:
Overall, the limited information which is available about lobby meetings shows the intense level of lobbying taking place on the Copyright Directive, but it also interestingly exposes that the biggest lobbies were not in fact big tech companies and their associates, as many headlines claimed, but the publishers, creative industries and collecting societies.
Incredibly, the narrative that all the lobbying is coming from Google has caused EU regulators to flat out discount complaints from people warning about problems with the proposal, while treating petitions supporting the Directive very differently. For example, the CEO report notes that organizations supporting both sides of the Copyright Directive set up “email your MEP campaigns,” but the reaction to them was… let’s just say, uneven.
Email your MEP campaigns are a common tool used by civil society organisations who mobilise their communities and supporters to exercise their democratic rights to engage with their elected representatives. Identity verification standards vary according to the tool used, but in this case, it seems that the campaign did not require email verification. That means that technically speaking, people could lie and change their identity in those emails.
De Cock explained that when they started the campaign they did not expect that so many people would participate, and so they themselves were surprised by the strength and impact of the campaign. But even then, can it really be labelled a denial of service attack? Such attacks are generally quite hostile, and aim to shut a website down completely. This is a remarkably different objective from that of an Email Your MEP campaign, which aims to ensure that MEPs are aware that there is popular support for certain causes and issues.
Astoundingly, ALDE MEP Jean Marie Cavada even said in an interview:
?After having analyzed the platform from which all emails come, I realized that it does not require a valid email address from the ?users? to send emails. Thus, as sometimes we receive dozens of emails per minute, we can conceive that it is actually robots that send all these emails, which luckily makes this movement lose credibility.?
Many MEPs simply wrote back to the senders to confirm their identity. De Cock, for instance, was then forwarded several of these exchanges between MEPs and their constituents. It seems Mr Cavada did not write back to the people who had contacted him.
It is worth noting that PRS for Music also created a tool to email MEPs in advance of the vote, with the call to action: ?PRS Member ? Take 90 seconds to influence the vote?. This tool did not even include a return address, and yet there were no claims that these emails were sent by bots. It is interesting that C4C seem to have been criticised simply because of the volume of emails, which arguably simply indicates the level of concern from constituents on the issue. However, both the C4C and PRS can be criticised for the loose use of internet tools to email MEPs.
In other words, because so many more people used the tools to say that they were against Articles 11 and 13, at least some MEPs derided them as fake, while saying nothing about the many fewer people emailing in favor of those articles. Hmm.
Oh, and what about that claim of $36 million spent lobbying by Google all against Article 13. Turns out that that number is also bullshit (and Billboard should really issue a retraction).
That same week, immediately before the JURI committee vote, the UK Music Industry body published a press release stating that ?figures show Google?s €31m EU lobbying bid? on copyright. UK Music simply took the entire lobby budget declared by Google in 2017, €6 million, and added to that the budgets of all the organisations and think tanks it is a member of, declaring that the ?The combined value of Google?s indirect lobbying of the EU amounts to €25.5m?.
This is a highly problematic and flawed interpretation of the Transparency Register. Google?s entire self-declared lobby budget does make it one of the EU?s highest spending lobby groups. However, only a portion of the declared €6 million would likely be spent on copyright, especially as Google is also fighting several other significant lobby battles in the EU (for example on the anti-trust law cases being brought against Android, digital tax, terrorist content, fake news etc). According to available meeting data, it looks like most of Google’s lobby meetings were in fact on issues from the Copyright Directive, so it appears that this is not their priority at the moment.
The €31 million figure also assumes that all the associations and think tanks of which Google is a member focused their entire declared EU lobby spending on copyright in 2017. That would include, for example, BusinessEurope, the EU employers? lobby, which are not necessarily active on the Copyright Directive, and if they are would only spend a marginal part of their budget on this issue. In most cases these groups (such as Friends of Europe, Konrad Adenauer-Stiftung, Bruegel etc) did little or nothing at all on the Copyright Directive, so these amounts should clearly not be included in the calculations.
Incredibly, CEO reports that much of the lobbying effort… was focused on blaming Google for too much lobbying. No, really.
In the copyright discussion, claims that GAFA, and particularly Google, were behind all opposition to Article 11 and 13 were again a strong message from publishers, and harder to counter. For instance, in the lobby newspaper produced by the news agencies, both the text from AFP?s editor Katz, and the ?editorial?, mention what they call deceptive lobbying. Katz wrote that the ?reform has been fiercely opposed by Facebook and Google, who have campaigned on a complete fabrication: a supposed threat to people?s free access to the internet?. He even declared that ?I am convinced that the members of parliament who have been misled by deceptive lobbying now understand that non-paying access to the internet is not at risk.?
So, let’s be clear: there are lots of corporate interests at play here, and tragically, the voice of the public is getting drowned out. But if anyone claims that any of this process has been driven by the big tech firms, they are flat out lying. Don’t let them get away with it.