European Union lawmakers rejected new copyright rules Thursday, instead opting for more debate and handing a victory to tech firms that face a broader European effort to rein them in on privacy, taxes and other rules.
The contested rules, part of an overhaul of the bloc’s copyright framework, are aimed at granting new rights to news publishers and content owners, such as record labels, in an effort to strengthen their position when negotiating with big tech firms, such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google.
Technology firms and free-speech advocates have said both measures would stifle online expression.
The vote exposes divisions within Europe over how to rein in big tech companies, as the bloc plays an increasing role in regulating those firms from the U.S. that have generally faced a lighter touch at home.
The EU is currently considering new tax proposals aimed at large tech companies that it says don’t report enough profit, or pay enough income tax, in the European countries where they operate. In May, the EU began enforcing a strict new privacy law, which could end up challenging whether people freely consent to tech companies collecting their personal information.
The directive that EU lawmakers voted to delay on Thursday has been subject to debate and heavy lobbying in Brussels since the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, first proposed it almost two years ago. On Wednesday, for instance, Sir Paul McCartney sent a letter supporting the law. Tech advocates meanwhile described it as a “censorship machine.”
One controversial measure in the commission’s draft would give news publishers the right to negotiate payment for “digital use” of their content by tech firms, though revisions in the parliament version didn’t extend that right to posting hyperlinks to content. Publishers say the rules are needed because a growing share readership comes through social media and aggregators, undercutting publishers’ efforts to attract subscribers.
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