London
05 July 2017
Reporter: Mark Dugdale

UK MEP: EU copyright reform views proving ‘irreconcilable’


EU copyright reform is generating “heated discussions” at the European Parliament, according to a UK representative.

Mary Honeyball, Labour member of European Parliament for London, provided insight into the progress of the Digital Single Market programme at a PRS for Music event on EU copyright reform on 29 June.

She told the PRS for Music members in attendance: “There is a real difference of opinion, and there at least two sides in the debate in [European] Parliament, which I think some of us found quite surprising, because you wouldn’t necessarily expect copyright issues to generate that kind of interest and that kind of emotion.”

“People feel very deeply about a lot of it and we’ve had some interesting and heated discussions—which doesn’t often happen in the European Parliament. There are very different points of view, very different principles that people are bringing to it.”

At the centre of the the “heated discussions” at the European Parliament is the role of intermediaries in the dissemination of content that infringes copyright.

Article 13 of the new copyright directive, which was proposed by the European Commission last year as part of the Digital Single Market initiative, would require the likes of YouTube to take down user content at the behest of rights owners with commonly available technological means.

“There is quite a movement—which is represented, though not led by the Pirate Party—that the internet should be free to everyone, that you shouldn’t charge for anything,” Honeyball said.

“It’s out there, and everyone should be able to take advantage of it, without any payment, without any obligation, without anything. I find that very extraordinary, but it is a deeply held belief for lots of people.”

“The other one is that all communication should be done responsibly, and those who are part of the communication process—whichever part of it they are—should have obligations, should have rights and responsibilities, across the whole spectrum, including paying people who partake in that communication in a reasonably fashion.”

She concluded: “So it’s two very opposing points of view, which have so far proved quite irreconcilable. The European Parliament, and the whole way that Europe works, is based on consensus and compromise, which people involved in British politics always find quite difficult to understand, as it’s the exact opposite of the way things go on here. So far, we have been unable to come together and work out compromises on the important issues in the Commission’s proposal.”

UK Music chairman Andy Heath commented: “We could be in for an era of cultural barbarism, the likes of which we have never seen. It would be disastrous for civilisation.”

“I cannot believe that any parliamentarians arguing for [safe harbour] would expect to go into the butchers and get free meat. Where does their intellectual journey go from that position to the one that everything should be free on the internet? It’s asinine and it’s infantile. I am shocked that there is [even] a debate.”

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