A minor setback in European copyright reform

As a freelance journalist I am disappointed by the close vote in the European Parliament today against the recommendations on copyright reform proposed by parliament’s JURI committee. Still, on the bright side I look at the vote as a minor setback that I and my fellow copyright holders could turn into an opportunity. The matter will come back before parliament in September, and a relatively small number of considered amendments could result in better drafted legislation.

What journalists and other content creators could do between now and September is engage in public outreach with a focus on countering the anti-copyright lobby by better explaining the intention behind Articles 11 and 13 of the JURI text. We should also report on differences of opinion within parliament and in the Commission (e.g., the JURI committee and Digital Single Market groups).

For example, following the vote today, New European managing editor Matt Kelly made the following comment on Twitter, which is typical of one style of critique…

“Good news. If you want to hit Google for more tax, fine. But the idea of a link tax is stupid. Don’t publishers realise they’d simply switch off googlenews if that was the law?”

One short, plain English response to this might be…

Under Article 11, individuals would remain free to share article links for non-commercial purposes. For journalistic content creators and other copyright holders, the problem is commercial news aggregation in the form of substantial copying of content.

And that, of course, is exactly what Google is up to. If they can get away with it, Google will continue to aggregate news by posting sufficient copied text and images such that many readers will not feel a need to follow through to the original sources. And that way Google grabs the bulk of advertising revenue.

Another thing we could think about, which so many European news media fail to do (not just UK), is better explaining the process of EU lawmaking. For example, the European Parliament considered one version of the JURI text, but the European Council, which represents member state governments, is looking at a slightly different version of the same recommendations.

Why are different EU bodies deliberating on what may or may not be significantly different documents? I sort of understand this, but in that respect am something of an oddity.

In summary, there is much work to be done between now and September to improve the lot of writers, photographers and artists who rely on income derived from the licensing of their copyrighted work.