The European Parliament has voted down the controversial copyright law amendments Articles 11 and 13, 318-278 - but the matter is returning for another vote in September, and activists claim the fight is far from over.

Approved by the European Parliament's Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) late last month, Articles 11 and 13 of the proposed Digital Single Market copyright reform have been the focus on fierce lobbying from digital rights activists and large technology companies. Article 11 would implement a 'link tax' requiring any website citing third-party materials, including for the purposes of discussion or public-interest reporting, to ensure they adhere to exemptions and restrictions present in 28 separate copyright laws or pay a licensing fee for their use; Article 13 introduces the requirement that all media uploaded to a service by the public be run against an automated copyright-flagging database of works for which said sites are expected to be charged to access.

Campaigners have argued that both Articles put onerous conditions on public discourse, and would have an outsize effect on sites like Wikipedia and citizen journalism projects. Arguably worse, opponents claim that the technology to support something as proposed in Article 13 simply isn't there: 'Algorithms that do content-matching are frankly terrible at it,' the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF's) Cory Doctorow claimed in a blog post arguing against the Articles. 'The Made-in-the-USA version of this is YouTube's Content ID system, which improperly flags legitimate works all the time, but still gets flack from entertainment companies for not doing more.'

For now, at least, it would appear that the European Parliament agrees: In voting late yesterday the Parliament voted, 318 to 278, against passing the measures, with 31 abstentions.

'Round one of the Robo-Copyright wars is over,' says campaign organisation Open Rights Group's Jim Killock of the vote. 'The EU Parliament has recognised that machine censorship of copyright material is not an easy and simple fix. They’ve heard the massive opposition, including Internet blackouts and 750,000 people petitioning them against these proposals. Everyone across Europe who wants this fixed will have to work hard to make sure that Parliament comes up with a sensible way forward by September. We congratulate our members for their hard work, and Julia Reda, Catherine Stihler, EDRi and others who have led the fight in Europe to stop these dreadful proposals.'

The proposal will be voted upon again in September, following any modifications which may make it more likely to be passed.

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October 14 2021 | 15:04