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POLAND: Copyright Reform

On Wednesday the European Parliament voted to approve a proposed reform of copyright rules on the functioning of internet content. This ends one stage of an intense conflict between giant internet companies and entities such as publishers, media groups, and record labels. The EP voted 438 in favour, 226 against, and with 39 abstaining to bridge an online value gap for artists and publishers. The proposal is aimed to change the negotiating position of creators and publishers with internet platforms; the vote, however, has caused much controversy and a first version was rejected back in July. The next step for the project is a three-way negotiation involving the European Commission and the Council of the EU. The proposal passed to the next stage of the bloc’s legislative process mainly due to votes from the EPP group – including Poland’s PO party. The ruling PiS party voted against and managed to shape the narrative in this case, presenting the vote as an attempt to restrict free access to the internet. PO MEPs have disagreed fervently, arguing that the proposal will protect domestic companies and cultural heritage.

Still, the EU’s potential directive would only set out general standards and leave it to individual member states to implement them as they see fit. Most Polish publishers and media groups back some type of redistributive mechanism. It would prove particularly useful for small and local newspapers, a prominent media group argues: regional publishers produce good content, which is frequently rebroadcast by others, granting few pageviews to the original authors. Still, not all publishers support the new rules. Some feel that they would only benefit the biggest firms that can hire staff to search for republished articles. Other authors argue that the law would decrease online discoverability, a fear also echoed by many internet-based businesses. The rules could furthermore hurt small internet businesses, which often lack the legal and financial resources needed to repay publishers. The EU wants to become a regional start-up hub. Badly managed regulation could undermine such ambitions.