MEPs approve copyright reform
by Thierry Leclercq
- As approved on 26 March in Strasbourg, the European Parliament has adopted the directive to modernise copyright law, putting an end to over two and a half years of negotiations and intensive lobbying
With 348 votes in favour of the text, 274 against and 36 abstentions, this directive is the product of an agreement reached between the European institutions at the end of their trialogue in mid-February. Its main aim is to strengthen the position of creators whose works are used by online platforms. All that remains is for the directive to be approved one last time by European ministers on 9 April – a mere formality –, after which member states will be granted two years to transpose the directive into national law.
The main change this law brings is to oblige online platforms to negotiate licensing agreements with the representatives of right holders; if the former don’t want to be held responsible for copyright infringements committed by their users, they will have to do everything in their power to prevent this scenario, either by obtaining the necessary authorisations or by withdrawing illegal content so as to prevent future breaches. For those opposed to the text, there aren’t many other options available to operators, other than installing an automatic content filter which will seriously limit freedom of expression online. The directive will, however, leave users free to share protected works in the context of quotations, criticism, opinion pieces, caricature, parody or pastiche. A further clause also allows greater flexibility for smaller platforms which are less than 3 years old, with under 5 million users per month and with a turnover below €10m.
So as to enhance the accessibility and visibility of European works on VOD platforms, the directive provides for a new negotiation mechanism which will ensure a more straightforward process for obtaining film and TV series exploitation licences. This will also apply to protected works which are no longer commercially available; institutions such as film libraries will be able to negotiate with collective rights management organisations or lay claim to copyright exceptions for uses relating to teaching, preservation or research. Under certain conditions, collective management organisations will also be permitted to conclude licencing agreements for right holders who are not members of their respective organisations.
Authors and creators will not only benefit from greater control over the online use of their content (films, music, articles...), but they will also be entitled to fair and proportionate remuneration; for their part, producers and editors will have to demonstrate transparency in their exploitation of works and allow authors and actors to receive a fair share of the proceeds. Creators should also be in a better position to (re)negotiate their contracts and to obtain redress where their rights are not respected.
According to German MEP Axel Voss (EPP, GE), who defended the initiative within the Assembly, "This deal is an important step towards correcting a situation which has allowed a few companies to earn huge sums of money without properly remunerating the thousands of creators and journalists whose work they depend on". For the Commission, "Today’s vote ensures the right balance between the interests of all players – users, creators, authors, press – while putting in place proportionate obligations on online platforms",declared commissioners Andrus Ansip and Mariya Gabriel. Creators (FERA, SAA, FSE), producers and film agencies (EFADs), meanwhile, believe the approval of this directive to be "a major victory for European authors".
(Translated from French)
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