Evidence of anti-copyright stakeholders’ harassment of MEPs in the European Parliament

On 2 July, Julia Reda and the Greens will attempt to block the vote on the European Parliament’s negotiating mandate with the Council of the Copyright Directive. Given that they are rather unlikely to succeed, their supporters are relying on making noise on the social networks, and on a campaign of harassment of MEPs aimed at slowing down their work. 

Yesterday, the Legal Affairs Committee, in which all of the European Parliament’s political groups are represented, voted the draft negotiating mandate of the Copyright Directive to “a very large majority of 14 to 9”, recalled Véronique Desbrosses of GESAC. In general, such a majority augurs for a smooth adoption of the mandate in question in the plenary session. Yet, opponents of the related right of press publishers and of the platform’s obligations in relation to protected works do not see things the same way, and still hope to block the mandate, and ultimately block the adoption of the text of the Directive. Their chances of doing so are slim, very slim. It is doubtless for this very reason that they have set their communication efforts in motion before the vote in the Committee, ahead of the vote in the plenary session. The aim is twofold: first, they must gather their supporters on the social networks by using simplistic slogans based around the “censorship of the Internet” supposedly brought on by the draft directive. Once the supporters have been brought to the website built for the purpose, they are asked to harass MEPs.

35,600 e-mails

"We have had to set up spam filters because we were receiving thousands of copy-and-paste e-mails. Up to ten per minute!" said the employee of an MEP. Until yesterday, the members of the Legal Affairs Committee were flooded with messages, “but we expect that the other MEPs receive such messages ahead of the plenary session”, specified another parliamentary assistant. “The lobbying strategies supporting protective copyright that are still used against MEPs and their teams have been particularly virulent. Among them, the strategy of massive spamming reduces our ability to process current affairs by saturating our mailboxes. To date, I have over 35,600 deleted e-mails”, said MEP Virginie Rozière.

This campaign, which was described as “harassment” by several observers, was orchestrated by Julia Reda, and some of the Green MEPs, to the applause and with the contribution of major groups of the Internet. Many tweets against the draft directive written by the Pirate Party MEP were re-tweeted by the representatives of the CCIA, such as Maud Sacquet. Their content is always similar to that shown above, in which Julia Reda affirms that "we will take this battle to the plenary sessions, and we still hope to #SaveYourInternet.” 

As we have seen here, Julia Reda and the giants of the Internet, work and continue to work towards the same goal, even though it is not always easy to spot the links that unite them. For instance, under a video that she published on her blog yesterday, Julia Reda posted a link to the MEP mailing campaign mentioned above which was set up by “Create Refresh”. This initiative is supported by the Quadrature du Net and the Creative Commons, as well as by Copyright4Creativty, a seemingly dormant operation funded by CCIA (the giants of the Internet), among others, as well as by the think tank Renaissance Numérique, an organization based in France whose corporate members contributing the largest amounts are “La Poste, Orange, SAP, Google, Facebook, BNP Paribas, Microsoft France, La Française des Jeux.” Google is even one of its founding members.

"Not easily fooled"

As usual, finding out exactly who is funding what in these anti-copyright campaigns that dress up as civic campaigns is more like a game of hide and seek. However, “we are not easily fooled: Julia Reda and the giants of the Internet share the same message”, said a parliamentary employee. Virginie Rozière shares the same opinion: “several demonstrations were organized inside and outside the European Parliament. On the day before the vote, EDIMA, the association representing digital companies parked three advertising trucks on Place du Luxembourg, an example that clearly demonstrates the extent of the resources invested by those who conducted intense lobbying campaigns aimed at attempting to influence discussions on the reform. Although the sponsor of the action involving the advertising trucks was identified, this has not always been the case, and the GAFAM have often hidden behind arguments sent in by “citizens”.”

The messages of the mailing campaigns – which are all identical – use the usual clichés of those combating any regulation of companies working on copyright on the Internet. Here is a summary: "violation of the freedom of expression", violation "of the European Convention on Human rights", and the affirmation that "repealing Article 13 would not endanger rightholders’ rights." It should be noted that the latter argument is genuinely brazen, given that rightholders have been saying the opposite for many years, and managed to convince most MEPs of the Legal Affairs Committee progress involved enabling them to protect their works. "The aim is not to prohibit, but rather authorize the use of the works under proper conditions", said David El Sayegh, General Secretary of the Sacem, adding that "the text provides for a balancing of interests, and even provides for prior consent for the platforms’ users to upload content." No censorship, therefore.

ElectronLibre brings you daily specialized news on culture, the digital economy and telecommunications. This article is exceptionally toll free. To subscribe and receive our great content every day, please go to our subscription page.