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DSM Watch: JURI once again postpones final vote on new copyright directive

The European copyright reform is underway. The heart of this process clearly is the draft for a Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (COM 2016(593) final). The draft is and the proposed amendments to it are currently being considered by the European Parliament. The debate is led by the Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI). It was anticipated that JURI would have its final vote on the amended wording on 10 October 2017. However, the draft Copyright Directive has recently been removed from the agenda for that date. For now, it seems that we will have to wait until JURI’s next session on 7 December 2017 to see the bill progressing.

It is not the first time the copyright reform has been taken off JURI’s agenda. Initially, the committee had planned to take its vote on the final language in late September 2017. However, it was not going to happen. Too much was on the committee’s plate. The second postponement now tells an ongoing story. The changes that the new copyright directive shall bring about are broad in nature and impact.

The main reason for the delay obviously is the high number of suggested amendments we have seen since the Commission announced its initial draft – in total 996! The original draft dates back to 14 September 2016. It involves several highly controversial and sensitive copyright issues. The two most contentious issues are the creation of a new neighbouring right for press publishers (Article 11) and the introduction of new monitoring obligations for certain online service provider (Article 13) (see our blog posts here and here).

It seems likely that another reason for the postponement are the set of questions concerning the legality of Article 13 put to the EU Council’s Legal Service in late July by the governments of six Members States (Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Ireland and The Netherlands), which were leaked and published on Statewatch in September. It would be surprising if the Parliament wished to push ahead with a debate on that controversial provision in the absence of answers to the questions those governments have asked, although DSM Watch does not yet know when the answers will be published.

Another piece in this increasingly complicated jigsaw is the text of the Estonian Council Presidency’s proposed compromise amendments (here), which has also been leaked recently, and which includes not one but two options for each of Articles 11 and 13.

A yet further reason for the delay is the change in the person of the rapporteur. On 10 March 2017, the former rapporteur Therese Comodini Cachia presented a first draft report. When Ms. Comodini Cachia moved back to Malta in June 2017, parliamentarian Axel Voss assumed the role of the rapporteur. However, Mr. Voss takes a slightly different position on some of the core aspects of the reform. While Comodini, for instance, rejects the introduction of a neighboring right for press publishers, Voss argues in favour of such a right as proposed by the European Commission.

Even thought, here will be no vote on the copyright draft, the agenda for 10 October 2017 still includes a topic of substantial relevance for the realisation of the Digital Single Market. The committee will have its vote on the draft for the Regulation laying down rules on the exercise of copyright and related rights applicable to certain online transmissions of broadcasting organisations and retransmissions. For more information on the draft, have a look at our blog post.

We will keep you posted!