Ten members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have said they voted against a crucial amendment to yesterday’s controversial Copyright Directive by accident.
The legislation was approved by the EU Parliament yesterday, with 348 MEPs voting in favor and 274 against. But a last-minute amendment that would have let MEPs take a further vote on the inclusion of Articles 11 and 13 — the most criticized parts of the law, known as the “link tax” and “upload filter,” respectively — was rejected by just five votes.
Official voting records published by the EU show that 13 MEPs have declared they accidentally voted the wrong way on this amendment. According to the record, 10 MEPs say they accidentally rejected the amendment when they meant to approve it, two MEPs accidentally approved the amendment, and one MEP says he intended not to vote at all.
If these MEPs had voted as they said they meant to, the amendment would have been approved by a slim majority. Then there would have been further votes on whether the law would include Articles 11 and 13 (renamed articles 15 and 17 in the final draft), though no one can say how those would have gone.
These voting records are routinely published by the EU, and they give MEPs the chance to correct the record if they voted the wrong way on legislation accidentally. But those corrections have no effect on the outcome of votes, even if a majority one way or the other is gained or lost.
“There is zero recourse,” says Marietje Schaake, a Dutch MEP who brought attention to the mistaken votes on Twitter. Schaake told The Verge: “For the record, you can change [your vote], but as the President calls it, that’s the result. Whatever the President calls is what matters.”
Users on social media were stunned, calling it “beyond absurd.” Diego Naranjo, a senior policy advisor at digital rights group EDRi, said the publication of the official record made a “joke” out of the vote. “For those of us believing in a strong social EU that respects fundamental rights, this is a step backwards for a better EU,” Naranjo told The Verge
Schaake agreed that it was surprising to see so many corrected votes when the legislation had been discussed so widely. But, she says, mistakes might have been made because of confusion over the order of votes. “One MEP got up and asked to vote separately on the amendment, and I think there was a little bit of confusion there,” said Schaake.
A spokesperson for Gerolf Annemans, a Belgian MEP who mistakenly rejected the amendment, said the same thing, telling The Verge: “The procedural vote was a last minute oral amendment which was somewhat confusing.”
Others have said the incorrect votes were perhaps not so accidental. Magnus Andersson, leader of the Swedish Pirate Party, suggested on Twitter that MEPs may have corrected the record just so they could later say they meant to do the right thing “as a way to get away with how they voted.”
When asked about this possibility, Schaake said, “Everything’s possible in politics.”
Following yesterday’s vote by the European Parliament, the copyright directive will now have to be approved by the European Council. However, experts say it’s unlikely that the body will reject the legislation at this point. “I think it’s very unlikely,” says Schaake. “But the fact this was such a narrow vote ... could make a little bit of a difference.”