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79 more votes are needed in the European Parliament to defend user-generated content against upload filters: EU Copyright Directive

Everything one can read on Twitter points to the EU Council being hell-bent to approve the proposed EU Copyright Directive (see Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda’s tweet). There was a glimmer of hope that Merkel’s junior coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party of Germany, could prevent the German government from supporting the proposal in today’s meeting of Member States’ diplomats. But the resistance they staged (after the delivery of 4.7 million online signatures) was too little, too late. Merkel imposed her will, and she owes some media companies big-time (in a recently uncovered scandal, a journalist who wrote articles for leading newsweekly Der Spiegel and won multiple awards had fabricated key parts of his stories, with a representative example being that he wrote Merkel appeared in “refugee” children’s dreams). In order to prevent Article 13 from being adopted, the social demoracts would have had to be prepared to leave the coalition, and they would have had a legitimate basis as the coalition agreement speaks out against upload filters. While the bill doesn’t say “upload filter,” there’s no way to implement its worst element, Article 13, without such filters, and everyone with a modicum of technical knowledge realizes that no filtering technology available today can make a fair-use determination…

So what does this mean in practice? It’s not realistic to assume that the formal Council vote (which must be held at least at the level of the ministers–or, theoretically, by the heads of state or government–and will likely take place within about a week) would go differently. Again, if Germany’s SPD threatened to leave the government coalition, then anything would be possible. There are signs of them looking for an exit from Merkel’s unpopular coalition government, but their plans appear to center on a mid-term view scheduled for later this year.

The European Parliament will hold its second-reading vote in late March. Recognizing that many people take an interest in EU procedures for the first time because of the controversial and partly crazy EU Copyright Directive, here’s an explanation of how high the hurdle is:

At the first-reading stage, where the Parliament’s vote is irrelevant unless the Council (= Member States) agrees anyway, a simple majority is sufficient to reject a bill (not a final rejection at that stage, just a political statement) or to pass an amendment that modifies or deletes a passage.

That was last year. But this time around, at a second reading, rejection or any amendments will require an absolute majority of the members. This means MEPs who are against us (meaning they are for Article 13) can just stay away from the vote and thereby try to avoid the voter backlash from openly voting for Article 13. However, it’s up to campaigners to build so much pressure that MEPs will actually want to attend and vote our way.

Looking at it from a practical angle, this means that any absentees or abstentions will have the very same effect as a vote FOR the Council’s text.

By contrast, it takes a blocking minority of either 13 countries (no matter how small) or countries accounting for about 35% of the EU’s total population to block something (such as Article 13) in the Council. This lopsided structure is a cornerstone of the EU’s well-known democratic deficit. It gives national governments way more power than the Parliament. The Parliament is also disadvantaged in other ways, such as with respect to the right of taking legislative initiatives. It’s basically always on the defensive and at the mercy of the Commission’s attention (the Commission is the EU’s executive government and practically like the secretariat of the Council).

Apart from temporarily vacant seats, the European Parliament has 751 members (750 + the President, whose vote doesn’t have more weight than any other). Therefore, one needs 376 MEPs to vote for rejection or an amendment at the second-reading stage; by contrast, the proponents of the bill just need 375 as the sum of absentees, abstentions, and votes in favor of the bill.

At the first reading in September, 366 MEPs voted for the Parliament’s version of Article 13 (which was quite bad, and arguably it’s even worse now), while 297 voted against it. In order to reject it next time, it doesn’t matter how many vote for it; even if nobody voted for it, we’d still need 376 votes–79 more votes than last time–to oppose Article 13.

I don’t mean to sound defeatist. It can be done: 79 more votes in a 751-member parliament. But it’s quite a challenge.

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View the original article here: 79 more votes are needed in the European Parliament to defend user-generated content against upload filters: EU Copyright Directive

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