'Value gap' or 'censorship machine'? Here's how the industry reacted to the EU's failed copyright directive

Emily Nicolle
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Should Brussels' flags be flying at half mast today after the bill failed to pass inspection?
Should Brussels' flags be flying at half mast today after the bill failed to pass inspection? (Source: Getty)

Today the European parliament voted to reopen debate on its controversial copyright directive, potentially saving the likes of Youtube, Google and Facebook billions of dollars in royalty payments.

The news has had a mixed response from legal experts and industry representatives in the UK, as the two warring sides of the debate have gone head to head over the results. Here's a breakdown of the interested parties, and how they reacted to the vote.

Read more: MEPs reject controversial EU copyright reforms in tech victory

Those in favour of the review: Tech giants and the internet's rich and famous

Campaigns from Google, Facebook and internet luminaries like Tim Berners Lee and Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales have been all over the internet in the last few weeks, protesting the upcoming bill which the camp famously labelled a "censorship machine".

An open letter, signed by many of these major tech figures and addressed to the parliament's president, described the bill as "a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users". The result of the vote was a cause for celebration for all on side, who will continue to keep up the pressure on MEPs as the bill gets revisited in time for a second draft in September.

Read more: EU approves controversial Copyright Directive, despite major tech backlash

Anthony Walker, the deputy chief executive of trade body Tech UK, said:

"The European Parliament is right to have delayed the copyright directive today. The proposed legislation would have had significant consequences for online services and the millions of people who use them. The proposals would have prevented people from sharing online content and there would have been unavoidable conflicts with fundamental rights."

Those against the review: Publishing and the record labels

Meanwhile those who stood to benefit from the bill, namely record labels, artists and publishing houses, have expressed disappointment at the parliament's decision.

The pro-directive camp often referred to the legislation as closing "the value gap" between so-called safe harbour sites like Youtube and paid-for services like Spotify. Beatles star Sir Paul McCartney wrote a letter to MEPs yesterday urging them to support the bill, arguing that the value gap "jeopardises the music ecosystem".

Read more: Help! Sir Paul McCartney calls on MEPs to vote for key copyright bill

Robert Ashcroft, the CEO of music royalty protection site PRS For Music, said:

"It is perhaps unsurprising considering the unprecedented level of lobbying and the comprehensive campaign of misinformation which has accompanied this vote that MEPs want more time to consider the proposals."

"From the outset our primary focus of this legislation has been concerned with whether or not the internet functions as a fair and efficient marketplace – and currently, for artists and authors, it doesn’t. They want their creative works to be heard, they embrace technology, but they want to be paid fairly. We will continue to fight for what we believe is their freedom and a fair use of their creative works.”

The legal view

Mark Owen, partner and head of intellectual property and media at Taylor Wessing, said:

"Today's vote is being described in emotive terms, one side's 'value gap' is seen by others as a tax or a 'censorship engine'. Will it break the internet if passed? Probably not, but it may miss its main targets, which are large tech platforms, and make life more difficult instead for smaller and newer tech entrants - in other words the sort of companies that the digital single market is intended to help."

Sean Jauss, a partner at Mewburn Ellis, said that the difficulty lies not in the law but in the technology that will be used to implement it:

"It's whether content recognition technology (CRT) will be able to distinguish between infringing works and parodies. Unless computers learn to identify humour or mockery, which doesn’t seem terribly likely, some human judgment will still be necessary to ensure that CRT solutions are proportionate and fair to both the copyright owner and the public at large."

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