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What’s next in the EU’s copyright fight


Opponents to Europe’s copyright reform will try their best to trigger a plenary debate on the controversial bill.


The copyright battle may be over, but the war is just beginning.

On Wednesday, the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee voted through the EU’s copyright overhaul for the digital age after months of negotiations and compromise among MEPs responsible for the file.

Now, a coalition of MEPs, spearheaded by Germans Greens MEP Julia Reda, will look to contest the result.

“These measures will break the internet,” said Reda, who was a shadow rapporteur on the file. “I will challenge this outcome and request a vote in the European Parliament next month. We can still overturn this result and preserve the free internet.”

The vote on one of Europe’s most contentious reforms was the focus of feverish attention. Lobbyists swarmed the committee room ahead of the vote, forcing many to stand. MEPs on both sides of the spectrum, including French Liberals MEP Jean-Marie Cavada and Reda, kicked up a fuss over procedural issues. And a proposal by rapporteur Axel Voss to postpone the Wednesday vote to later was rejected by only one vote.

But in the end, both of the most controversial elements of the reform — a new right for publishers to help monetize their content online and tools to help artists and creators earn more money for online work — were voted through, albeit narrowly, by the committee.

“I am very satisfied. Of course this might be challenged in the plenary but so far we have achieved a good result … I am very relieved,” Voss told POLITICO.

Parliament’s fight over how the EU is set to reform its copyright rules for the digital age is now likely to grow in scope —roping in 751 MEPs, instead of just 25.

Reda is expected to get support from members of the European Conservatives and Reformists, with lobbyists ramping up their efforts.

“We urge all MEPs to contest this report and to support balanced copyright rules, which respect online rights and support Europe’s digital economy,” said Maud Sacquet, a senior policy manager at the Computer & Communications Industry Association, a group that represents companies like Google fighting parts of the proposal.

Their tool of choice? Most likely a tricky procedural motion called Rule 69c.

In theory, the rule allows 76 MEPs to trigger a plenary vote on whether or not the report should go to three-way talks between Europe’s main institutions. If such a rule were invoked and the vote went against three-way talks, the report would have to be renegotiated by all 751 MEPs, even if the committee in charge wants it to go straight to trilogues.

The first test will come on July 4 or 5, in Strasbourg. MEPs are expected to use the procedure in plenary then to see if they can reopen the file for all MEPs to weigh in.

However, Rule 69c has never managed to overturn a committee decision on a tech file. In previous cases, those rebelling against committee positions weren’t able to garner support from a simple majority in plenary, as is required.

But copyright is not like any other file.

Some groups, like the Center for Democracy and Technology, are already working hard to target the proposals at Parliament’s group leaders, not just the copyright wonks in the Legal Affairs Committee.

And MEPs are hoping they can raise the battle cry to keep the issue on citizens’ and policymakers’ radars in the weeks and months to come.

“This vote is not the end of the debate. We will continue to gather support for sensible, 21st century solutions, instead of harmful ones,” said Dutch Liberals MEP Marietje Schaake.