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European Parliament backs safe harbour reform – everyone responds

By | Published on Thursday 13 September 2018

European Commission

The European Parliament yesterday passed the proposed new copyright directive, including the music industry’s preferred version of the controversial article thirteen. Whereas the copyright reforms were voted down by a small majority in July, yesterday’s vote in favour of the directive was significant, with 438 votes for, compared to 226 against.

Article thirteen, of course, reforms the copyright safe harbour, increasing the liabilities of user-upload platforms like YouTube. Copyright critics and the tech lobby argue that this reform – and another related to the aggregation of news content – will negatively impact on the way we access and share content online.

The media and entertainment industries dispute that claim. They say the new measures will simply help to stop billion dollar tech companies from setting themselves up as content businesses without ever going to the bother of actually creating any content, instead relying on users and bots to nab other people’s work and plonk it on their websites.

Yesterday’s vote doesn’t mean the directive has been passed. The Parliament must agree a final draft with the EU Council, which brings together ministers from all the member states, and the European Commission, which wrote the original version. This final phase is known as ‘trilogue’. Then after that, each member state will need to implement the new rules in their own respective bodies of copyright law.

As with all good European law, there is still some wiggle room in the new directive, and there may be further room for some nifty wiggling in the way the new rules are implemented at a national level. The fact that the tech lobby fought so hard against the version of article thirteen passed yesterday tells us that they do believe the new measures will increase their liabilities. Although some may as yet argue otherwise once the final new laws are in place.

Nevertheless, the music industry is optimistic that if the final version of article thirteen is akin to that passed yesterday, it will sufficiently strengthen the negotiating hand of copyright owners when dealing with the likes of YouTube. So to push up the royalties user-upload platforms pay when they do make use of copyright material. And once that has happened in Europe, it could happen elsewhere too. We shall see.

Either way, the campaign to secure safe harbour reform in Europe has seen the wider music community – labels, publishers, societies, artists, songwriters, producers, managers – work more closely together than ever before, and even more so since July’s knockback.

That said, there is more to the copyright directive than just article thirteen. When the International Council For Creators Of Music urged MEPs to back the directive last week, it also put the spotlight on articles fourteen through sixteen, what it called the “transparency triangle”. These measures will likely divide the music community as they put pressure on corporate rights owners to be more transparent on how rights are being exploited, while seeking to also strengthen the negotiating hand of the artist and the songwriter.

In the UK, this morning the UK Music allied trade bodies representing individual creatives rather than music companies – so BASCA, FAC, MMF, MPG and the MU – formally launched a new coalition called the Council Of Music Makers. While these organisations will likely speak as one with the labels, publishers and collecting societies on article thirteen, they will likely have a different viewpoint when it comes to implementing articles fourteen, fifteen and sixteen.

That means that, although the music industry’s lobbyists, activists and campaigners won’t be quite as vocal as they have been in recent few weeks, we can expect plenty more chatter, debating and wrangling around this new copyright directive in the months and years ahead.

Meanwhile, here – in no particular order – are the top thirteen statements on yesterday’s article thirteen vote. Nine in favour of the reform, four against, so to reflect yesterday’s voting numbers. Because you know how much we love democracy here at CMU.

1. Helen Smith of European indie label trade group IMPALA: “This is a great day for Europe’s creators. The Parliament has sent a clear message that copyright needs to be modernised to clarify obligations of platforms with regard to the creative works they distribute”.

2. Anders Lassen of European collecting society grouping GESAC: “Today is a victory for Europe and its independence from a few tech giants who have profited off outdated legislation to further consolidate unhealthy dominance and to siphon value out of Europe and its creators”.

3. Frances Moore of global record label trade group IFPI: “[We] join others in the creative community in thanking the European Parliament for its work on this proposal in the most difficult of circumstances. We now look forward to working with the three institutions in the forthcoming trilogue to ensure the ‘value gap’ is effectively closed”.

4. Chris Butler of global music publisher group ICMP: “We are delighted with today’s vote, which is a clear victory for rightsholders. Article thirteen of the directive is necessary to redress the grotesque imbalance music publishers face online”.

5. Geoff Taylor of UK record label trade group BPI: “This vote is great news for music fans and for anyone who values exciting and original online entertainment. It’s an important step towards creating a fairer internet that encourages and rewards creativity”.

6. Paul Pacifico of UK indie label trade group AIM: “It is a great day for culture and music in Europe as the Copyright Directive is adopted by the European Parliament. I would like to thank the MEPs from all parties for their energetic and highly engaged approach to this very sensitive and important legislation that stands to benefit the next generation of music artists and creators online who generate the content we all enjoy”.

7. Jane Dyball of UK music publisher trade group MPA: “We are not quite home and dry, but today’s article thirteen decision takes us a step closer to securing proper value for creative works from those digital services who build their own fortunes at the expense of individual creators. This has been a joint effort from across the music industry and broader creative industries and shows what can be achieved when we work together on matters of crucial importance”.

8. Robert Ashcroft of UK collecting society PRS For Music: “The European Parliament today took a bold step forward to ensure a functioning and sustainable digital single market for creative content. PRS For Music has fought from the beginning for digital services to pay all creators fairly for the content they use. Today’s vote was a ringing endorsement of our work and that of our colleagues in the industry over the last five years”.

9. Annabella Coldrick of artist manager trade group MMF: “The MMF joined the music industry campaign on the directive to ensure fair remuneration of artists by digital platforms, alongside provisions on transparency, fair contracts and an alternative dispute resolution. We call upon the Council to adopt the Parliament’s text in full, including a new provision on reversion rights where an artist’s music is not being exploited by rights owners or reporting is absent”.

10. Jim Killock of UK-based digital rights campaigners Open Rights Group: “Article thirteen creates a Robo-copyright regime that would zap any image, text, meme or video that appears to include copyright material whether it is legally used or not. This is disappointing and will open the door to more demands for Robocop censorship. The directive is not yet law and could improve during trilogue negotiations. We will keep opposing these measures which will lead to legal material being removed in this way”.

11. Danny O’Brien of US-based digital rights campaigners the Electronic Frontier Foundation: “There are still opportunities, at the EU level, at the national level, and ultimately in Europe’s courts, to limit the damage. But make no mistake, this is a serious setback for the internet and digital rights in Europe … The best that can be said about the [copyright directive] as it stands, is that it is so ridiculously extreme that it looks set to shock a new generation of internet activists into action”.

12. Julia Reda MEP of The Pirate Party: “Today’s decision is a severe blow to the free and open internet. By endorsing new legal and technical limits on what we can post and share online, the European Parliament is putting corporate profits over freedom of speech and abandoning long-standing principles that made the internet what it is today”.

13. A somewhat non-committal Google spokesperson: “People want access to quality news and creative content online. We’ve always said that more innovation and collaboration are the best way to achieve a sustainable future for the European news and creative sectors, and we’re committed to continued close partnership with these industries”.



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