People take part in a demonstration in favour of the new copyright directive in Strasbourg on Tuesday. Agence France-Presse
Strasbourg: The European Parliament on Tuesday adopted controversial copyright reforms championed by news publishers and the media business, but punishing tech giants that lobbied against it.
Despite an intense debate in parliament, MEPs meeting in Strasbourg ended up passing the draft law with 348 votes in favour, 274 against, and 36 abstentions.
European lawmakers were sharply divided on the copyright issue, with both sides subjected to some of the most intense lobbying the EU has ever seen from tech giants, media firms, content creators and online freedom activists.
Launched in 2016, the revamp to European copyright legislation was seen as urgently needed, not having been updated since 2001, before the birth of YouTube or Facebook.
The reform was loudly backed by media companies and artists, who want to obtain a better return from web platforms that allow users to distribute their content.
But it was strongly opposed by Silicon Valley, and especially Google that makes huge profits from the advertising generated on content it hosts, and also by supporters of a free internet who fear it will result in unprecedented restrictions to web freedom.
The final days before the vote were marked by marches and media stunts, including tens of thousands of people protesting in Germany on Saturday under the slogan “Save the Internet.”
There were similar protests in Austria, Poland and Portugal, while major Polish newspapers on Monday printed blank front pages in an appeal that MEPs adopt the reform.
“I know there are lots of fears about what users can do or not — now we have clear guarantees for freedom of speech, teaching and online creativity,” Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip said after the vote.
Germany was at the heart of the anti-reform movement, led by Julia Reda, a 32-year-old Pirate Party MEP who has spearheaded a campaign against two of the law’s provisions that have become flashpoints in the debate.
Reda said the vote marked a “dark day for internet freedom” and decried that MEPs refused, albeit narrowly, to modify the text before the final vote. Reda’s main worry was Article 13, which aims to strengthen the bargaining power of rights holders with platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Soundcloud, which use their content.