Today, EU countries vote one last time on copyright reform. The enemy of the enemy was CDU politician Axel Voss. A conversation about the escalated dispute over the Internet.
The "Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market" is probably the most controversial law of the outgoing legislature of the European Parliament. This applies in particular to the regulation according to which Internet platforms such as Youtube are to be liable in the future when users upload copyrighted content to the site. Critics fear that platforms with so-called upload filters will protect against this liability – and in case of doubt could block rather generously than to accept a liability risk. Losses for freedom of expression would be the result, so the argument.
This Monday, the Member States of the European Union will vote one last time on the controversial reform. Actually, this step is more a matter of formality in the legislative process. However, some Member States have already announced their intention to vote against the reform. MEP Axel Voss (CDU), 56, from Bonn, is the European Parliament's competent rapporteur. He has become a hate to many opponents of the reform.
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On Monday, Member States vote one last time on copyright reform. Do you think that the reform could fail there?
That's possible. But I'm assuming a majority for the reform.
You do not sound completely convinced.
No, the topic is too emotional.
When you were appointed rapporteur for this reform in the European Parliament, did you expect that the law would be so controversial?
Not at all, the development has surprised me a lot.
Why do you think the dispute has escalated?
This started with an old version of the bill, in which "technical measures" were expressly included, and there was a first wave of protest. We then changed the text for plenary voting and removed that part, but the critics continued to say that without an upload filter it will not work anyway. Even at this time, so last summer, you have not seen the realities.
What kind of realities do you mean?
On the one hand, that Youtube has been working with recognition software for ten years. On the other hand, a system-inherent problem: If you want to protect the copyright, but at the same time allow users to upload 400 hours of video every minute, then there is virtually no other way than such technical measures.
In your opinion, is there no alternative to the controversial upload filters?
Of course. Legislators could develop licensing models at national level. And if they have a smaller platform, they can also manually check what is being uploaded. But that does not work in the crowd. But I could not explain that difference in the heated debate at all, especially not against Youtube's misinformation campaign.
You mean Youtube boss Susan Wojcicki's appeal in November to protest the reform?
Yes, that was the initial spark. The protest ended up in the "children's rooms", among the 12- to 25-year-olds, who then all had the feeling: "Oho, my food is in danger, I have to worry about that now."
But not only Youtuber criticizes the reform, but also lawyers, civil rights activists or other parties. In addition, several European member states want to vote against the reform on Monday. Do you really believe that all of them were instrumentalized by Google, the parent company of Youtube?
Not necessarily with the parties and civil rights activists, no. But I think that most critics did not deal enough with the problem.
The demonstrators also wanted to prove that they are not bought "bots," as colleagues have assumed.
I can understand that has generated emotional opposition. And of course the people who took to the streets are not bots. But if they get 60,000 emails in two weeks and they then try to get in touch with some of them and there is no reaction, then you can not completely dismiss that there are not always real people behind it all stand this name. Since you could quite come up with the idea that everything was processed in a structured manner. This was also in an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung,
In a guest post by an author who makes his living by tracking down copyright infringement. In addition, some of his allegations were later refuted.
What the author has stated seemed quite plausible to me. I do not know the article that has refuted his thesis.
The organization Corporate Europe has evaluated the lobbying activities in the context of copyright reform and found: publishers and collecting societies were much more active in lobbying than Google.
During the legislative process, I sometimes complained that the platforms actually did not get involved in the legislation with their own suggestions. I can only draw two conclusions from this: Either they have focused solely on the excitement they create through the Youtube campaign. Or they finance non-governmental organizations, which then make themselves strong for freedom of expression, but ultimately also play into the interests of the platforms.
Her colleague Helga Trüpel of the Greens and advocate of the reform is looking in the social media again and again the conversation with her critics. Not you. Why not?
In the beginning I tried that. But at some point there came a phase in which one did not even think about the real problem anymore and wanted to discredit me only as a person.
Is it true that you received death threats?
Yes. That's what the state criminal police is doing.
You stand again for the European Parliament. Are you afraid of the backlash for you personally or for your party?
In my constituency my posters are at least more botched than the others. Maybe some young people may not want to vote for the party right now. But anyone who calls "Never again CDU" has not understood the system of European legislation: Without a majority from the other political groups, the reform would not have succeeded.