– After heated parliamentary discussions, much suspense and a red herring, on Friday the European Parliament’s chief rapporteur for the European Commission’s new copyright proposal, Ms. Therese Comodini Cachia, officially published her draft report. The proposal was first leaked a week earlier by Politico but it turns out that the final official version differs significantly from the earlier leak. While the dates of the versions only differ by three days, given the large number of minor changes as well some large (including a whole new chapter), it seems that the leaked version was an older working copy.
One of the biggest changes in the official version compared to the previous leak is the new chapter that introduces a mandatory “Union Legal Deposit” requiring any electronic publication “dealing with Union-related matters such as Union law, Union history and integration, Union policy and Union democracy, institutional, parliamentary affairs and politics” to ensure that the European Parliament Library receives “delivery, free of charge, of one copy of every publication”. The implications of such a requirement are profound for the publications covering general EU affairs, many of which are moving content behind paywalls, as well as for niche legal publications charging significant amounts for subscriptions. An outright uproar is thus expected from the legal publishing industry. And it is perhaps particularly ironic that it was left out of the version first leaked behind Politico’s paywall given that their articles are likely to be subject to such a mandatory deposit.
Another amendment that was in the leaked document but not included in Politico’s version (due to them leaving out the last page) is the modified article 18 which introduces a time limitation to the new press publishers right by limiting the “presumption of representation of authors […] and the legal capacity to sue in their own name” to publications “made” 12 months after the entry into force of the proposal. The draft report replaces the Commission’s proposed new ancillary right for press publishers with the above presumption of representation and by also including a time limitation it explicitly addresses the related issue of retroactive effect, which is particularly relevant online due to the continuing nature of publishing on the internet.
While much of the leaked document identified by Politico as Ms. Therese Comodini Cachia’s “finalized [...] proposed reform” was correct, the missing amendments show the dangers of Politico’s occasional “first but wrong” reporting and serves as a cautious reminder to journalists to thoroughly verify their sources.
Ms. Comodini Cachia herself tweeted numerous direct links to Politico’s reporting on the leaked documents including with the following implicit endorsement: “Get to know more about the #CopyrightReform @POLITICOEUTech”. When questioned for this article she declined to comment on whether she was concerned that an inaccurate version was leaked and widely reported on as the final report but clarified that “the official version is the only report that is under discussion in Parliament”, adding that it “often supports the underlying principles selected by the Commission even where I have put forward a somewhat different proposal.”
According to Ms. Comodini Cachia’s timeline, the draft report will be debated in the Legal Affairs Committee this week, with a final Committee vote on the report towards the end of June. The proposal is then expected to be voted on in Parliament plenary before the end of 2017.