Copyright Reform

Official draft opinion by copyright rapporteur differs significantly from recent leak

Many of the amend­ments in the leaked re­port by Par­lia­men­t’s chief rap­por­teur on the Com­mis­sion’s new copy­right pro­posal re­main. The of­fi­cial draft does how­ever in­clude a num­ber of sig­nif­i­cant changes that were not in­cluded in the re­cent leak.

– 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.

European Commission’s proposed new right for press publishers is mired in controversy

The new press pub­lish­ers right in the Com­mis­sion’s pro­posed copy­right di­rec­tive is a rad­i­cal mea­sure aimed at sup­port­ing a news in­dus­try in peril. The pro­posal may how­ever have se­vere un­in­tended con­se­quences.

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