“We’ll be Voting Yes to the Directive”— Swedish Social Democrats Break Their Silence

Photo credit: Jonatan Svensson Glad, Per Wilkens, TeaMeister

Jytte Guteland and Marita Ulvskog will vote in favour of the controversial EU Copyright Directive in its entirety, including articles 11 and 13, Guteland has confirmed to this blog. Sweden’s Social Democratic party hasn’t previously revealed its stance, and Guteland and Ulvskog have thus far been the only Swedish members of the European Parliament who’ve said they’ll vote yes to the Directive*. Previously, this blog has revealed that Social Democrat Anna Hedh will vote no.

Guteland has yet to arrive in Strasbourg, but confirms over the phone that she’s speaking for both herself and Ulvskog. Guteland’s decision is primarily about helping copyright holders achieve a better negotiating position with online conglomerates, who currently make big profits on individual work, without paying the creators. She emphasises that the Directive in Article 13 attempts to limit itself to dealing only with platforms that compete with, for example, Spotify or other sites that replace copyright holders. And she doesn’t think it’s about creating any all-encompassing filters.

“It is not a filter, it’s more about the sites taking reasonable steps, some of which can be free or cheap”, says Jytte Guteland.

The Directive states that sites need to show ‘best efforts’ “in accordance with high industry standards of professional diligence”. One of the companies the Directive seeks to impact is Google, whose recognition filter on YouTube, Content ID, cost $100 million to develop.

What do you mean when you say “free or cheap” ways to take the measures needed to stop copyrighted material from being distributed?

“You shouldn’t need to commit to expensive technical solutions, but measures taken must be proportionate and reasonable based on the content you have. If you’re a commercial player with huge amounts of content, then you’ll need to implement other solutions”.

There are exemptions from the Directive for satire, critique and parody. How should an automated ‘function’ be able to differentiate between what’s copyright infringement and what’s exempt before it’s even posted?

“There’ll be both the ability to subsequently appeal as well as an independent body through which the person who has their content deleted can process their claim, which is not possible today. Our view is that it strengthens opportunities for parody”.

But satire will disappear first if that’s the case? So anyone who wants to criticise something that happens to be copyright protected needs to go through having it blocked before it can be published?

“Even today, material can be taken down, the law does nothing to protect citizens as it stands. This way, there’ll be a legal framework to exert their claim”.

But then you’ll have to wait?

“There shouldn’t be lengthy court proceedings. Even big platforms have an interest in avoiding long court proceedings”.

If we look at an example: during #MeToo, the 1337likes Instagram account sought to highlight how blatant everyday sexism could be, making satire based on clips from Swedish morning show ‘Nyhetsmorgon’. How would it look for her if this happened in the future, under the new Directive?

“I see before me a mechanism being developed that doesn’t exist today, where now we have recognition technology, but no appeal process. In the future it should become second nature for platforms to examine whether content is satirical, so that it can be reposted quickly. That means it’s about recognition becoming a two-stage process where today it’s only one. That way it becomes easier to make judgments”.

If users can’t publish satire and criticism without also submitting it for review: doesn’t that create a necessary evil to be endured in order to get the good?

“No, satire should be protected, and since it is highlighted in the article text and not in the recitals, this protection is particularly strong”.

But in practice, satire based on copyrighted works is blocked first?

“That’s your picture of it”.

No, it’s your picture, as you described it in the example just now? That it comes up again after it has been taken down.

“Yes, I mean, I imagine that’s how it’ll be… That technology is such that you’re extremely thorough regarding what you’re looking at… That there’s a clarity that if it’s copyright protected content and it ends up in the situation of being taken down, then it’s all done very quickly. For the companies, it’s a matter of making it an extremely quick process”.

But there’s nothing in the Directive to say it should be a quick process?

“No, but it’s in their interests to be quick, they want content on their platforms”.

Jytte Guteland maintains that she and Ulvskog will vote yes to the entire directive, including articles 11 and 13, which represents a sharp U-turn on her and the party’s previous position.

Previously, the party wrote, “we do not believe that the mandatory monitoring filters proposed in Article 13 are the right way to go. They risk inhibiting both freedom of speech and digital development. Instead, we want to see digital giants like YouTube and others sign collective licensing agreements with copyright holders”. The whole party also voted against an earlier satire exemption, but this was on account of a misprint and something they later corrected.

Tomorrow at 07:45 CET, the Swedish Social Democrats have invited press to a breakfast with the other members of the party in Parliament. Members of the party are said to be deeply split over the issue, and details are emerging that Social Democrat MEP Anna Hedh is furious that the party is trying to whip her into voting yes.

We’ll report live from tomorrow morning’s press call.

This piece is funded by a Kickstarter campaign to monitor the European Parliament’s Copyright Directive proposal during its final stage of voting. Text and images are supplied under CC BY, a license that makes it free to share and redistribute wherever you want, provided you link back here with appropriate credit.

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