Catherine Stihler, Labour MEP for Scotland, says proposals to reform copyright law in the EU risk internet freedom, and we desperately need to retain our voice in Europe because these laws will affect us whether we Brexit or not.


For nearly two years, proposals to reform copyright law have been debated and scrutinised in the European Parliament. It’s been a long and arduous process focusing on what appears a dry and complicated topic, so it has attracted very little media attention.

But what is planned will impact on every single person reading this article, and nearly every single person who uses the internet.

Last week, it came to a vote in Strasbourg. Discussions went to the wire, and fortunately the proposal as it was can be amended during the September plenary. The result was picked up by the media, but it was hardly front-page news. If the plans do ever get the go-ahead, however, rest assured that this will become a huge issue.

In a nutshell, the reforms relate to copyright ownership of material posted online. The principle is that the original owner of the material – be it a photo, a song, or a written article – should be supported. It’s a laudable aim: photographers, artists and writers deserve to be properly remunerated for their work. But the crackdown goes too far.

It would introduce blunt, real-time filtering using an algorithm of every piece of content that is uploaded to sites like YouTube, Google, Twitter or Facebook. Anything which could be seen as a copyright breach will be automatically deleted. That includes memes because the uploader doesn’t own the original photo, karaoke videos because the uploader doesn’t own the original song, and online newspaper articles because the uploader doesn’t own the original piece.

It will massively restrict the freedom of the internet. And far from supporting creators, it could ultimately backfire.

A large portion of news providers on the internet are financed by page impressions and the resulting advertising income, which is generated by people visiting their site via external links. If a platform is not willing to pay the licensing fees, those page views don’t happen.

When similar rules were introduced in Spain, traffic to websites of small and medium sized news publishers fell by up to 30 per cent, impacting on local journalists, and Google News largely withdrew from the market. If that happens in Scotland, where newspapers are already making huge cutbacks, it could put this vital industry at further risk and allow the spread of ‘fake news’ posted by the conspiracy theory bloggers who poison Scottish politics.

More widely, there are real concerns about the effect on freedom of expression raised by experts ranging from the UN special rapporteur David Kaye to the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

I am determined to protect artists and cultural diversity in Europe. As vice-chair of the European Parliament’s internal market committee, I have been focused on these proposals for months, leading the campaign to reject the restrictions.

We owe it to everyone in Europe to give this directive the full debate necessary to achieve broad support. So I am delighted with last week’s vote. But the clock is ticking. At the end of March, if Theresa May has her way, I will lose my vote – along with every other MEP from the UK. Britain will lose its influence at the top table.

Brexit does not offer a get-out clause from this; companies such as Google and Twitter will have to conform to any legislation to be able to operate across Europe anyway.

It is just one more example that proves why Brexit is so misguided.

Last Friday evening, before David Davis resigned, the Tory Cabinet put forward proposals for our future relationship with the EU, but the UK Government is quickly going to find that the other 27 member states won’t tolerate cherry-picking.

As the reality of Brexit becomes clear, everyone has the right to have their say on the final deal. That’s why we need a People’s Vote.

I urge the Labour leadership to back this, so that we can reverse Brexit and still have influence in the European Parliament where so many important decisions – such as how we use the internet – are made.

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17 thoughts on “Losing our voice

  1. I am generally in agreement with you but we need to be mindful that many European proposals ( such as the unfair commercial practices directive) are labelled as consumer protection measures but in operation are more about opening up markets and introduce difficult ideas such as “transactional decisions” that make it difficult to get prosecutions for consumer law breaches.

  2. Who are these “conspiracy theory bloggers who post fake news” and who “poison Scottish politics” you speak of? Scotland in Union perhaps?

    1. Scott Arthur is a prime example of one of these conspiracy theory fake news bloggers as indeed is this very blog site as well.

  3. For me just look at some of the stuff that appears on so called social media .
    There is nothing social about it Zuckerman ran rings round the American politicians did not bother even turning up for the Brits

  4. If you see something wrong in the paper you can complain ask for a correction .
    The professional bloggers on the Internet is there any pressure on them to actually research a story .
    If they get it wrong do we have anyone to go to like Ofcom .
    And what happens after Brexit

    1. Are you for real?
      The standard practice of the printed media is to put out a glaring headline more often than not of fake news political tainted in favour of the party the paper supports or the ideology it promotes DAILY and ONLY if forced to correct does so on page 11 in a tiny box many readers would need a magnifying glass to read. And that could take months before the correction is applied by then its worthless.
      A blog can be challenged almost immediately and with detail.

      You are displaying perfect examples of how fake news is propagated and supported online.

  5. Mike just spotted your claim this site spreads Fake News it does not .
    Its a discussion site people blog then you can comment in agreement or not .
    Its not a news blog site .
    Some of the stuff I have seen in the National letters page are a disgrace like unionist .English settlers with a vote
    Brit Nat squatters in our Scottish Parliament that’s just some of it .
    And a lot of it from people who have commented to Labour Hame
    I have e mailed them try that language when at election time they canvass etc .
    And the public tell you what they think of our leaders and their pet projects like Brexit indy etc
    And say whut ur yae dayin aboot that pot hole .
    I was told round here son the first one that gets the rubble off the beach gets in here.
    And I forgot in the National English Government occupying forces

    1. Its a portal where fake news can be and is promoted where comments are censored by “Moderation”.
      The site is unashamedly pro Labour and makes no bones about that fact.

      And here you are ironically spreading fake news through the comment section.
      Staggering levels of self unawareness.

  6. Thanks for your comment Bungo
    When I spoke to the woman who was stacking the shelf it was her who told me they were all going to lose their jobs .
    Its a large site she did not know how many were employed there .
    She told me that they were owned by Pound World that’s what brought Bargain Buys Kilmarnock down .
    She told me that’s the 3rd time she has lost her job .
    She looked totally defeated just accepting it . I wished her the best .
    Then I went home read the local paper Pound World Irvine closing 13 jobs going .
    We are back in the 80s except unions and political parties used to protest demos etc .
    I don’t see anything on a national basis either at UK or Scottish level on the same scale .
    Might be wrong hope so

  7. Mike thanks for your comments
    The name of the site is Labour Hame
    The point I am making is and I think you know that is with the main media you can complain to the organization involved or Ofcom .
    So the news sites on the web who do you complain to for a correction who regulates them .
    Moves are I think afoot to regulate the internet see what happens .

  8. Pound World have just announced the closure of the remaining 190 stores with the loss of 2339 jobs by 10 August The total collapse of all 335 stores means 5100 jobs have gone.
    I went through job loss enough times in the 80s .
    Its what got me politically active . Heart brake for 5100 families .
    Time to take to the streets it was done in the 80s we are back there

  9. If anyone needed any further proof the Internet needs reformed watch the ch4 dispatches programme inside Facebook .
    And great news about the Barclays jobs coming to Glasgow

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