The shocking story of how copyright fundamentalists might have unfairly won very close votes in Legal Affairs Committee against access to our common cultural legacy represented by orphan works. Can 23 voting MEPs vote 14 to 12 against mass digitization? Is this a new kind of Brussels arithmetic?
Last Thursday, March 1st, the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament considered for vote the Orphan Works Directive. Key decisions were taken with regards to the mass digitization of a vast cultural legacy of books, films, music and art that is out of printer or off the market works whose authors either unknown or not located. These decisions will affect the EU legal framework for public-private partnerships for digitization, the type of liability public libraries will bear, what the nature will be of the search for rights holders and whether there can be any commercial exploitation of these works.
Most of the crucial votes on these issues were won by a very small margin by the MEPs who belong to the radical copyright and pro-ACTA lobby (led by MEP Gallo) and against the recommendations of European librarians, consumers and other public interest organizations.
But it turns out that the vote was neither clean nor fair. According to the official protocol of the Committee Secretariat with the final voting result there were only 23 MEPs present with a right to vote out of a maximum of 24 allowed(1 MEP was absent). Nevertheless, when very important votes were counted manually there were more than 23 allowed to vote by Chair MEP Lehne. For example, Compromise Amendment 20 (that defends the economic viability of digitization), was rejected by a vote of 14 to 12 which means 26 Members voted! This is totally illegal considering that there are only 24 members in the Legal Affairs Committee. Another important amendment 71 presented by MEP Gallo was approved 13-12 while the Socialist Rapporteur´s amendment 32 was defeated 13 to 11 votes. All these close votes were taken with too many MEPs voting.
To my knowledge the Chair has refused a number of requests by MEPs to repeat the vote. Why does the Legal Affairs committee organize illegal votes?