European reform of intellectual property threatens to hit citizens and SMEs hard

20 June 2018

The European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) wants to introduce a link tax and is refusing to shed light on the freedom of panorama. Both these elements are part of the reforms of intellectual property on which the JURI committee voted this morning.

MEP Anneleen Van Bossuyt says: “This proposed reform threatens to hit our citizens and SMEs hard. It will be less easy for citizens to get access to news and they will still not know if they can post their photo of the Eiffel Tower on Facebook or not. As for SMEs, they will have to install an expensive system that monitors and filters content. The link tax could also cost them a great deal of money. I want the plenary meeting to issue a statement on this before, not after, the negotiations with the member states start up.”

The reform of intellectual property is intended to provide an answer to the request from authors and artists for a fair (or fairer anyway) reward for their work. Anneleen Van Bossuyt: “That’s a legitimate request. But a link tax, allowing for example newspapers to charge a Fee A fee is remuneration requested by the government for a specific service that it provides. The difference between a fee and taxes is that there is an immediate service provided in return for a fee. An example is the parking charges that the municipalities can enforce. They can carry out the collection thereof themselves, or contract this out. fee to news aggregators for links to articles, is not a good idea. Websites that aggregate news are crucial for easy access to information that would otherwise remain under the radar. What’s more, small start-ups can’t pay it.”

The European Commission wanted to give the citizen more clarity regarding freedom of panorama, but the JURI committee voted the proposal down. Anneleen Van Bossuyt says: “Anyone taking a photo of public buildings or famous works of art will still not know whether that photo can be posted to Facebook for example. The citizen has the right to clearer rules, but apparently other MEPs don’t agree. It shows a lack of common sense.”

Finally, Europe would oblige online platforms to constantly monitor and filter all uploaded content. The goal being to tackle infringements of intellectual property. Anneleen Van Bossuyt: “Yet another heavy burden for our start-ups and other SMEs. And indeed, can a computer program really take account of necessary nuances or a particular context? A parody, meme or cartoon can simply disappear off the internet in this way. Europe is threatening to reduce the intellectual wealth of the internet drastically.”

This text is now going straight to the negotiations with the member states. Anneleen Van Bossuyt says: “I am advocating among my colleagues for the plenary meeting to say its piece now. This dossier is too important to let it pass quickly. If I collect enough signatures, the whole Parliament still has time to change these damaging modifications fundamentally.”

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