This morning, the EU's legislative affairs committee (JURI) narrowly voted to include two controversial proposals in upcoming, must-pass copyright reforms: both Article 11 (no linking to news stories without permission and a paid license) and Article 13 (all material posted by Europeans must first be evaluated by a copyright filter and blocked if they appear to match a copyrighted work) passed by a single vote.
Now the proposal goes to the "plenary" -- the entire body of Members of the European Parliament, from all 28 nations -- for a vote. The plenary next meets in early July, and then recesses for summer and comes back in late September.
The fight just got a lot harder. The plenary has a strong bias for voting to approve the language that emerges from its specialised committees, rather than tying up the scarce Parliamentary time with lengthy, line-by-line debates that might delay votes on other legislation.
There is also a chance that the Directive will go to a "trilogue" -- a closed-door session where legislators and representatives from the national governments debate in secret -- which usually ends up rubberstamping the committee's language and substantially reduces the chances that Parliament will choose to debate it.
The good news is that EU elections are coming up and the MEPs are vulnerable on this issue: breaking the internet is an ever-more-unpopular proposition, and the lesson from the ACTA and SOPA is that when internet users are roused to risks to their internet access, they can mobilise to sway lawmakers.
But the bad news is that the fight just keeps getting harder from here on in. Winning in JURI meant flipping a single committee member. No we'll need to convince a majority of Parliamentarians. If we lose there, we'll have to bring action in the European Court of Justice, a multi-year process that could leave internet users vulnerable to censorship for most of decade, while these badly considered rules hand an enduring, unassailable advantage to the US Big Tech giants.
Karl Bode's Motherboard story on the vote highlights the incredible poor drafting of these rules, which leave every key concept undefined and create so much uncertainty that no one will ever be sure if they're in compliance... until they get sued: "Similar proposals have been tried and failed in countries like Spain, and even many publishers don’t think proposal is a good idea. The proposal requires payment for those sharing any more than “insubstantial” portions of published content, but the term 'insubstantial' isn’t clearly defined, opening the door for cash grabs by publishers that don’t understand the internet."
Meanwhile, on The Verge, James Vincent has excellent (if depressing) detail on the next steps in the legislative process: "Currently, the legislation is also set to be debated in what are known as “trilogue negotiations” — closed-door discussions between EU legislators and member states. These are intended to speed the process of adopting new laws, but critics say they are opaque and undemocratic. Whether or not the Copyright Directive will be subject to such negotiations is undecided. (The JURI committee voted this morning that it should be, but MEPs have a chance to object next month.) If the trilogues do go ahead, it increases the chances that Articles 11 and 13 will become law. “[The legislation] is much less amenable to being rejected after this process,” says McNamee."
EU takes first step in passing controversial copyright law that could ‘censor the internet’ [James Vincent/The Verge]
The EU’s Terrible, Internet-Wrecking Copyright Plan Lurches Forward [Karl Bode/Motherboard]