EU copyright reforms pit creative industry against internet activists, consumers

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Europe’s creative industries are urging EU lawmakers to back a proposed overhaul of the bloc’s copyright rules, putting them at odds with internet activists who oppose a requirement to install filters to block copyright material.

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People protest against the planned EU copyright reform in Berlin, Germany March 23, 2019. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

The European Commission wants to reform copyright rules to protect Europe’s cultural heritage and ensure fair compensation to publishers, broadcasters and artistes. The European Parliament is due to vote on the Commission’s proposal on Tuesday.

More than a thousand artists have signed an online petition calling on EU lawmakers to endorse the overhaul while others have ran op-eds in newspapers in support of the changes, lobbying group Impala said in a statement.

Artists in favour of the proposed changes include film producers Pedro Almodovar and Michel Hazanavicius, Benny Andersson from Abba and author Ali Smith, as well as independent music labels.

A vote in favour by the European Parliament would pave the way for the reforms to become law.

Google, internet activists and European technology start-ups, however, oppose the overhaul and were joined on Monday by consumer lobbying body BEUC.

A requirement for Google’s YouTube, Facebook’s Instagram and other sharing platforms to install filters to catch copyright violations known as Article 13, but now renumbered to Article 17, has triggered protests, with an online petition www.savetheinternet.info garnering more than 5 million signatures so far.

Google senior vice-president for global affairs Kent Walker has said the article could prompt online platforms to over-block content to limit legal risks.

Critics also say filters are costly and could lead to erroneous blocking.

Publishers, artistes and actors had also originally been vocal critics of the Commission’s proposal to rewrite the copyright rules but reversed their position after successfully lobbying for Google to pay them for using their work online.

BEUC said it opposed the copyright reforms, arguing that consumers may not be able to share pictures and holiday videos with background music if automated filtering becomes the norm.

“This is not the modernised copyright law that creators and consumers need, but rather another attempt to protect an industry that has consistently resisted to deal with the impact of technological change on their business model,” BEUC’s Director General Monique Goyens said in a statement.

The European Parliament’s approval is the final step in a process which the European Commission kicked off two years ago.

[“source=reuters”]

Uber Can Be Banned by EU States, Notes Top EU Lawyer

Uber Can Be Banned by EU States, Notes Top EU Lawyer

HIGHLIGHTS
EU member states can ban Uber without informing the European Commission
Uber insists it is a service and not a transport provider
Critics and competitors say this allows it to dodge costly regulation
EU member states can ban ride-hailing pioneer Uber without informing the European Commission because at heart it is an ordinary transport company under their jurisdiction, a top EU lawyer said Tuesday.

San Francisco-based Uber insists it is a service, not a transport provider, connecting riders with freelance drivers directly and much more cheaply than traditional cab companies.

But critics and competitors say this allows it to dodge costly regulation and several countries, led by France, have banned its low-cost UberPOP service as a result.

Uber France challenged the ban, saying it amounted to regulation of an information company which Paris should have first lodged with the Commission, the European Union’s administrative arm.

However, Maciej Szpunar, an advocate general with the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice, said Uber was in fact an ordinary transport company and so member states could go ahead and regulate its activities without notifying the Commission in advance.

He recalled that in a May 11 opinion on a related case concerning Uber Spain, he had concluded that UberPOP “does not constitute an information society service.”

Szpunar also argued that even if the ECJ, the EU’s highest court, should at some stage determine UberPOP was indeed an information service provider, a ban in response to “the illegal exercise of a transport activity does not constitute a technical regulation within the meaning of the directive.”
“Notification of the draft law to the Commission would not be necessary in that situation either,” he said.

He argued that member states only had a duty to notify the Commission if they took a specific, targeted action against information service providers.

“Rules which affect those services only in an implicit or incidental manner are excluded from the notification obligation,” he said.

The ECJ’s advocate generals – its top lawyers – are regularly called on to provide initial guidance to the court which in most instances follows their advice in its final rulings.

The French authorities banned Uber after violent protests by traditional taxi drivers.

Uber in turn filed complaint with the EU against France and other states, arguing that national policies hostile to its operations violate European law.

[“Source-gadgets”]

Uber Deemed Transport Service by EU Top Court Adviser

Uber Deemed Transport Service by EU Top Court Adviser

Uber provides a transport service and must be licensed, the European Union’s top court said on Thursday, in a potential blow to the US firm which says it is merely a digital enabler.

“The Uber electronic platform, whilst innovative, falls within the field of transport: Uber can thus be required to obtain the necessary licences and authorisations under national law,” the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) said.

While the opinion of the Advocate General is non-binding, the court’s judges follow it in most cases and a ruling would mean EU member states can regulate Uber and other such companies as a transport rather than “information society” service.

The case was brought by an association of Barcelona taxi drivers who argued that Uber engaged in unfair competition with its UberPOP service – which used unlicensed drivers.

Uber, which no longer operates UberPOP in Spain, said it would await a final ruling later this year, but added that even if it is considered a transportation company, this “would not change the way we are regulated in most EU countries as that is already the situation today”.

However, such a ruling would “undermine the much needed reform of outdated laws which prevent millions of Europeans from accessing a reliable ride at the tap of a button,” an Uber spokeswoman said in a statement.
Uber, which allows passengers to summon a ride through an app on their smartphones, expanded into Europe five years ago.

But it has been challenged in the courts by established taxi companies and some EU countries because it is not bound by strict local licensing and safety rules which apply to some of its competitors.

The Advocate General said Uber drivers “do not pursue an autonomous activity that is independent of the platform. On the contrary, that activity exists solely because of the platform, without which it would have no sense.”

Uber could not be regarded as a mere intermediary between drivers and passengers because it controlled economically important aspects of the urban transport service, Maciej Szpunar said in the opinion.

“The service amounts to the organisation and management of a comprehensive system for on-demand urban transport,” the ECJ statement said.

 

[“source-ndtv”]

EU to End Barriers to Netflix, BBC iPlayer in 2018

EU to End Barriers to Netflix, BBC iPlayer in 2018
The EU took a major step toward allowing people to use their online entertainment such as Netflix or BBC iPlayer all across Europe, officials said Wednesday.

Europeans spend about one billion nights in other EU countries every year but face a frustrating inability to access subscription services while outside their home country.

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm which proposed the change, reached a compromise late Tuesday with negotiators from the European Parliament and the European Council of 28 member states, virtually guaranteeing that the measure will succeed.

Once formally approved, EU consumers on the move will be able to enjoy entertainment as if at home in early 2018, the commission said.

“Today’s agreement will bring concrete benefits to Europeans,” said Andrus Ansip, the commission’s vice-president for the Digital Single Market.

“People who have subscribed to their favourite series, music and sports events at home will be able to enjoy them when they travel in Europe,”
As it stands, a subscriber to the Netflix or Amazon streaming service in, for example, France, will only have access to the service as it is available in a country they are visiting, where the movies or series often drastically differs to their home version.

In another example, digital subscribers to Sky Sports in London are unable to access Premier League football matches on their iPads or laptops when travelling abroad.

“This is very good news for EU consumers,” said Monique Goyens, head of Brussels-based the European Consumer Organisation.

“Artificial barriers blocking you from using your online video, music or game subscription contradict the very principle of a single market,”

Crucially, the measure puts a zero limit on the amount of time travelling Europeans can enjoy their home-based subscriptions.

This is unlike the EU’s free roaming promise for mobile phones that comes into effect in June, but comes with a list of restrictions.

Tags: Netflix, EU, European Union, Online Streaming, BBC iPlayer, Entertainment, Internet, Apps

[“Source-Gadgets”]