SNP Member of the European Parliament Alyn Smith has today welcomed the refusal by the full European Parliament of the negotiating mandate on the reform of copyright in the EU Digital Single Market by 318 votes to 278 with 31 abstentions.

Alyn voted to reject the mandate, on the grounds that the package agreed by the Committee responsible needed more work to strike a proper balance. The dossier will now remain live before the full Parliament over the Summer, allowing time for a proper full debate and vote of the Parliament in September. 

Alyn said:

“Firstly, it is important to be clear about what today’s vote was actually on and what the effect of the vote is.

“Much of the lobbying we have seen, from all points of the compass, has attempted to deliberately confuse issues of principle with process and pragmatism, and present the vote as black and white when it is far more complex.  We were not voting for or against copyright or for or against filtering the internet, it was to approve or reject the very complex compromise the Legal Affairs Committee reached by a vote of only 14 to 9.

“There has, rightly, been a lot of lobbying on this but some of it has been overblown.  Allegations that today’s vote would somehow ‘break the internet’ were clearly absurd but hundreds of people were misled by self interested lobby groups and I would suggest they did not help their cause.  Equally, for this issue to be leapt upon by anti-EU campaigns is even more absurd, the Digital Single Market is an enormous success precisely because of the EU’s bigger scale and reach, and keeping those rules up to date is not some dastardly plot, especially when we are doing it in full public view, transparently and fully accountable to the public we serve.

“Everyone agrees that copyright needs to be reformed, and that technology has already evolved beyond the laws we presently have.  This is an exciting process and I believe everyone involved was there for good reasons.  This is an utterly democratic process trying hard to find a pragmatic solution that will work for citizens, creators and consumers that keeps pace with technology and also works for data protection and wider rights to access to information, privacy and freedom of expression.  This is not a simple set of issues, and of global significance.  Given the alternatives are only the US or Chinese models with their many faults the EU is in a position to influence the world for the better.  Even with whatever brexit might turn into, today’s vote is of continuing importance to Scots, Brits and Europeans so it is vital we take the time to get it right. 

“That said, I do not think the Legal Affairs Committee struck the right balance.  There are some welcome words on fair remuneration for creators and some ideas on how to bridge the creativity gap, but I think they could have gone further and I’m also not sure they would have lasted long in the negotiations to come.  Elsewhere in the package, I do not think concerns over the role of enforcement were fully thought through, with potential for private corporations, chiefly the major platforms, to play a far more active role in making policy rather than implementing laws we democratically agree.  Concerns raised by researchers and libraries that this could make their functions more difficult I do not believe have been sufficiently addressed.  More generally, I remain concerned that access to information, rights to privacy and freedom of expression could need to be massively undermined in order to protect private economic rights of creators and their agents.

“The rejection, for now, of the mandate means the Parliament has another few months to get it right, and I look forward to supporting colleagues in that and will continue to be active in efforts to strike a balance that works for everyone.”

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