Creating a new Europe: the Copyright Directive a year on

Today marks a year since the adoption of the Copyright Directive, a historic turning point for Europe’s authors and creative sector.

Read on to find out where we stand in the transposition process and what these vital changes will mean for European creation and culture.


The Copyright Directive was formally adopted on 17 April 2019, after a hard fought campaign that drew on the support of creators from all artistic fields, their collective management organisations (CMOs), and other rightsholders.

Jean-Michel Jarre

All Member States have until June 2021 to transpose the Directive into their respective national law.

But why was the creative sector so passionately pro Directive? To understand that, it’s first necessary to understand what the situation was like pre-April 2019.

Parlement Henri Vogt 2

Pre-Copyright Directive

The digital age brought with it the rise of huge video-on-demand platforms like YouTube and Facebook. The popularity of these platforms emboldened them to pretend that anyone could make works protected by authors right/copyright available to a vast global audience without needing to pay any royalties to the original creator.

Platforms were able to amass huge wealth and power off the back of such content, and very little of that wealth, if any, trickled down to creators. This injustice became known as the Transfer of Value or Value Gap.

The ambiguity of previous rules led platforms to pretend that they were mere hosting services and therefore not liable for copyright. Through the Copyright Directive, creators were demanding that the EU stand up to tech giant pressure and level the playing field with legislation that is fit for the digital age.

It was time for EU copyright legislation to catch up with the Internet.


Rebalancing the scales in favour of creation

Under the Copyright Directive, the rules surrounding the fair remuneration of creators and sharing of protected works are finally clear for all. Big platforms are now liable for the content that appears on their services. This means they will need to play fair, and obtain a licence for protected works, which is an easy process thanks to CMOs and rightsholders bundling works by repertoire.

Access to content online is not a problem. The Directive has many provisions that provide for wider access to creative works through educational institutions, cultural heritage organisations, research, museums, and more. It also guarantees that creators receive fair pay from the companies exploiting their works.

Creation has been proven to be a crucial aspect of the digital ecosystem. It promotes market growth and the flourishing of culture.

Collective management organisations do their part by ensuring the broadest possible array of works are available, and that the authors who make them are paid fairly for their usage. This allows the flow of creativity to continue unimpeded.



Where do we stand now?

The EU Commission is currently conducting Stakeholder Dialogues. The aim is to produce guidelines for provisions relating to services like YouTube and how they must cooperate  to ensure that creators are paid what they are owed while providing consumers with the necessary complaint and redress mechanisms and rightsholders with necessary enforcement mechanisms .

Today YouTube and other big platforms operate under an opaque structure that answers exclusively to their own commercial interests. The guidelines should make the operations of giant platforms more transparent and provide more accurate usage information.

Thus far, the big tech platforms have tried to use these Stakeholder Dialogues to weaken or avoid their legal obligations, instead of trying to comply with them and fulfill their responsibilities. While disappointing, we are optimistic that this can be resolved by the end of the process. The guidelines are not, after all, for interpreting the law but for facilitating their proper implementation.


COVID-19 – solidarity with creators

The COVID-19 crisis has impacted the Commission’s work on the guidelines and Member States’ transposition process. The situation has also confirmed just how vulnerable creators are and the importance of CMOs in protecting their well-being.

The cancellation of shows and events has hit the creative sector particularly hard. Largely self-employed, creators are not able to benefit from the safety net afforded by larger companies or dedicated government funds, so CMOs have stepped in to offer grants and other forms of financial aid.

Strong authors’ right legislation is crucial for enabling CMOs to ensure a continuous royalty scheme for creators. Though, this is just one of the ways in which CMOs provide support to their members and the sector. Most CMOs also provide dedicated funds for cultural projects, training, and pension or health support for individual members.

The swift transposition and implementation of the Copyright Directive is certainly an important element for the long-term recovery of the cultural ecosystem.

© Henri Vogt (featured image)