The European Parliament votes to support digital content creators
by Thierry Leclercq
- The European Parliament is proposing an overhaul of copyright laws in favour of online content creators vis-à-vis digital platforms
Despite tactical moves to delay the vote, the European Parliament Committee for Legal Affairs has finally adopted a position on copyright reform for the digital age. Its rapporteur, German MEP Axel Voss, has been granted a mandate to negotiate the text of the new law in trialogue with the European Council (who approved the proposal on 25 May) and with the Commission. Following the result of the vote, Voss declared: "We are happy to have achieved this result which will help creative parties strengthen their position within the European Union vis-à-vis online platforms […] It’s a good, first sign".
The adopted text effectively introduces liability on the part of digital platforms to respect copyright laws and to commit to fair pay for content creators. Online platforms such as YouTube and Facebook who have an “active” online strategy, as opposed to straightforward host sites, are deemed to be engaged in sharing content with the general public and, on this basis, they will be required to draw up licence agreements with copyright holders. Failing this, they must work with copyright holders to implement content filter technologies preventing visitors to these websites from illegally uploading copyrighted work. These website users will, however, have the legal right to appeal if they believe their publication has been unfairly removed from the platform in question.
The Committee for Legal Affairs is also introducing a new article (14a), ensuring authors and artists are “paid fairly and appropriately” for the use of their work online, mainly via collective management agreements. "It’s a first step in the right direction" enthused the Society of Audiovisual Authors (SAA) in a joint statement released with the Federation of European Filmmakers (FERA) and the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe (FSE). Moreover, the compromise text underlines the need for transparency as regards the ways in which authors’ and artists’ work is used, the revenues generated from their work and the fair pay that is proportionately due to them. It strengthens their negotiating position, allowing them to "demand additional pay" where the original sum is deemed too low in comparison with the revenues gained from the use of their work. The text also grants authors and artists the right of revocation, allowing them to put an end to any licence of exclusivity on the use of their work, where holders of these usage rights fail to actually use the work or to honour their obligations in terms of transparency. Editors and press agencies, meanwhile, will enjoy a new neighbouring right, protecting their online content for five years following publication.
Last but not least, the reform introduces new exceptions to the general copyright rules, allowing for the exploration of texts and data and the use of content for educational purposes, but also approving its use by organisations tasked with preserving cultural heritage (libraries, film libraries).
The many opponents of the text, led by MEP Julia Reda (Parti Pirate), still hope to overturn the provision in a plenary session on 4 July. No doubt, in the meantime, ministers will continue to be on the receiving end of intense lobbying on the part of digital operators and civil society in general, who see the text as an assault on freedom of expression and a step in the direction of a wider internet lock-down.
(Translated from French)
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