By Alexandra Giannopoulou* and Aimilia Givropoulou

Managing intellectual property on the Internet constitutes one of the most controversial legislative issues in the European Union. In recent years, it has become obvious that the creation of a digital single market requires the creation of a legislative framework, which harmonizes the rules implemented in the Member States.

The first attempt for such a harmonization took place in 2001 with the adoption of the Directive of the European Union for the harmonization of certain aspects of the right of the creator and related rights in the information society. However, this Directive failed in achieving its objective.

From 2001 onwards, technology is rapidly evolving and the lack of contemporary regulations was obvious and necessary. For this reason, with her proposal and report, which was voted in the European Parliament, the Member of the European Parliament Julia Reda, asked the legislators to revise the anachronistic rules of the Directive and proceed with the necessary reformations.

The proposal of the European Commission of 2016 does not only fail in harmonizing the legislations of the Member States, incorporating the requisite reformations, but also provides for more rules, which are threatening the structure and function of the Internet as we know it today, as well as the fundamental right to freedom of expression.

The controversial articles of the Proposal for the Directive

The controversial articles of the text in question are articles 11 and 13. The first one introduces a new exclusive right of the publishers of the Press; the second one creates the obligation of platforms, which store and give access to content, to issue licences for publishing this content by users or prohibit it from being accessible through the introduction of automated filtering algorithms, which will track copyright violations.

There is broad scientific unanimity in the criticism of the controversial articles. Article 11 suggests the introduction of a neighbouring right for the publishers of the Press and can create exclusive rights, even in short excerpts or news titles. Reusing these excerpts will thus require explicit permission by the publisher.

Despite its promising advantages, Article 11 will impede significantly the free flow of information, which is vital to a democratic society. At the same time, the catastrophic consequences of Article 13 for freedom of expression and the ambiguity in the way automated content filters apply justify the citizens’ concern regarding the requirements of the Article.

The legislative procedure and Wednesday’s vote

According to the ordinary legislative procedure in the European Union, subsequently to the proposal by the Commission, the Parliament and the Council of Europe deliberate and after the first reading can suggest amendments to the Commission’s proposal.

In the Parliament, the committee responsible is the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI), which, after having received the opinions of other committees (LIBE, IMCO, ITRE, CULT), finalized and presented its proposal last July; the proposal was rejected by the European Parliament plenary, with a majority of 318 Members of the European Parliament voting against it. As a result, JURI’s proposal could not proceed according to the ordinary procedure in the tripartite meetings between the three legislative organs.

The proposal came back on the table of negotiations of JURI and it was also opened to all Members of the European Parliament, who can submit their own suggestions for the text. The plenary will meet on Wednesday 12 September in Strasbourg to vote the final text, which will constitute the proposal with which the Parliament will join the tripartite meetings. The proposals which will be voted on Wednesday are more than 200.

Actions – How can you influence Wednesday’s vote

Since the Proposal for the Directive was published by the Commission in 2016 until today, many civil society actors, academics and pioneers in the new technologies sector have expressed their objection both to the Commission’s text and the text, which was finally rejected by the plenary in July.

Among the civil society actors is the Non-Governmental Organization European Digital Rights, which focuses on digital rights in Europe, and the European Consumer Organization, BEUC. Additionally, Internet pioneers, such as the creator of the World Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee and the co-founder of Wikipedia Jimmy Wales, as well as organs, like the Special Rapporteur for the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression David Kaye, have noted the negative consequences that the initial text of the Commission and the subsequent text by JURI, will have on the structure and function of the Internet.

In Greece, the non-governmental organization EELLAK, is also alert and informs regularly through its website on the latest news.

As already mentioned, the exercise of pressure from the citizens to the distinguished Members of the Parliament did not go unnoticed before July’s vote. With the upcoming elections for the Members of the European Parliament being only 8 months away, the activation of citizens is necessary and useful. Homo Digitalis sent its message to the Greek Members of the European Parliament and many citizens contacted our representatives in the Parliament.

The #SaveYourInternet movement focusing on the erasure of Article 13, offers all the required information and tools to make communication with the Members of the European Parliament easier. The outcome of Wednesday’s vote is still unclear. Participation of the people is important and necessary, since it can influence the final result and raise the legislator’s awareness.

To follow further the news you can follow our posts and the information by shadowy rapporteur Julia Reda. On Twitter, the discussions continue with the hashtags #SaveYourInternet and #FixCopyright.

* Alexandra Giannopoulou holds a PhD in Law from the University of Paris II Panthéon Assas and a lawyer. She works as a researcher in Blockchain and Society Policy Lab, in the Institute for Information Law (IViR) of the University of Amsterdam. She is an associate researcher in Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) in Berlin and in the Institute for Communication Sciences (CNRS-ISCC) in Paris.

* Aimilia Givropoulou is a lawyer holding an LL.M. in the Law of the Internet. She works as Legal Adviser in digital policy issues in the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament. In the past, she has worked with the Non-Governmental Organization European Digital Rights.