We have been closely monitoring the progress (or lack of as it turns out) of the draft Copyright Directive. As a quick re-cap, the draft Copyright Directive was published in September 2016 as part of the European Commission's Digital Single Market Strategy (DSM) - an ambitious modernisation of the EU copyright framework to make EU copyright rules fit for the digital age. At the end of May 2018, the Council's permanent representatives committee (Coreper) agreed a common position on the text and the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (JURI) followed suit and voted on 20 June 2018, adopting the approved text. This was despite a significant amount of fierce lobbying urging the European Parliament (EP) to reject the draft. However, at the plenary vote (where all MEPs come together) on 5 July 2018 there was a shock turn around, when the European Parliament rejected the draft. Many of those who opposed the draft were hailing this as a huge victory, only to have the wind knocked out of their sails on 12 September 2018, when the EP voted in favour of a number of amendments that had been made to the draft Copyright Directive. The process then moved forward to what is known as informal trilogue negotiations - where The European Commission (the EU executive body which proposed the original text of the Directive) works together with the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union (the EU member state governments) in order to agree and approve what is hoped to be the final text of the Directive.
Fast forward to 2019 - a meeting had been scheduled for 21 January, intended to be the final trilogue at which the overall compromise text would be agreed and a report was to follow on 22 January 2019 to enable the reforms to be adopted before the European parliamentary elections in May 2019. However, shortly before the 21 January, it was announced that the meeting had been cancelled because there was no agreement, largely in relation to Article 11 (press-publishers' right for the digital use of its digital publications) and Article 13 (relating to the use of protected content by internet service providers that store and allow access to large amounts of user-uploaded content). See our previous blogs here and here for further details in relation to the mechanics of Articles 11 and 13 and the controversy that has plagued them.
Andrus Ansip, current European Commissioner for the DSM and Vice President of the European Commission expressed his disappointment about the delays on Twitter and tried to put a positive spin on the situation, stating, "I think we should not on the last meters lose sight of the major achievements that are already largely agreed." Along the same vein, Nathalie Vandystadt, spokesperson for the DSM at the European Commission said that copyright was a "priority file for the EU institutions and a key reform for the European citizens and European creative and press sectors". She reassured the public that the EU Commission would "continue to work to help the EU colegislators to find a deal". By contrast, Julia Reda, German MEP and leader of the pirate party, showed her relief that a compromise had not been reached by stating, "BREAKING: Council has failed to find an agreement on its copyright position....This doesn't mean that Article 11 and Article 13 are dead, but their adoption has just become a loss less likely. Let's keep up the pressure now!"
So what now?
Well, the answer to that is a tricky one! It is not easy to predict how long it will now take to reach an agreement. However, recent reports indicate that at the time of writing, Germany and France have reached an agreement on Article 13 and the rest of the Council will discuss it on Friday and if they agree, there is a possibility that there may be a final trilogue next week. Legislators will have various key factors at the forefront of their minds – the upcoming EP elections in May 2019 when the text would be adopted and with Brexit looming, any no-deal outcome would mean that any EU law that has not been adopted will fall away and will not be incorporated into the UK legal system. So, the legislators need to get their skates on if they want to push the law through before it is too late. Even if the draft text is agreed in time, however, will the UK even have the appetite to implement it into UK law? Watch this space! We will update you as and when we have news.