Intellectual Property |  Oct 10, 2016

New EU Copyright Rules Aimed at Supporting Online Content Creators

During the State of the Union 2016, the European Commission proposed the introduction of new and up to date EU copyright rules. President Jean Claude Juncker outlined the main reason for the proposal:

“I want journalists, publishers and authors to be paid fairly for their work, whether it is made in studios or living rooms, whether it is disseminated offline or online, whether it is published via a copying machine or commercially hyperlinked on the web.”

The proposed copyright rules come as part of the Commission’s Digital Single Market strategy, and will have a profound effect on online players such as Google, YouTube and Facebook. These giants have been accused of not compensating content creators fairly and reaping all the profits from user generated content.

The proposal has the following three main objectives:

Easier access to online content across borders

Broadcasting operators currently need to obtain authorisation when offering TV channel packages by negotiating with every single right holder on an individual basis. These rules aim to facilitate the process by establishing collective management organisations which will be able to grant licenses. Once the process becomes easier and more straightforward, customers will have a greater choice of content available.

The new rules will encourage museums, information archives and other bodies  to make available to the public and across borders “out of commerce” works, that is, when the works are no longer commercially available.

Enhanced copyright laws on education, research and cultural heritage and further inclusion of disabled people

Teachers encounter difficulty when using online material due to copyright-related restrictions. The Commission proposed a new exception which will allow educators to make use of this material. Another proposed exception will allow cultural heritage institutions to preserve works digitally for posterity.

With regards to the inclusion of disabled people, the proposed legislation aims to implement the Marrakesh Treaty and facilitate access to published works for blind or visually impaired persons.

Increased equality and sustainability in the marketplace for online content creators, industries and JOURNALISTS

The new rules aim to strengthen the position of content creators when negotiating their remuneration on platforms such as YouTube. The press and online news services will be recognized as right holders and will have authority over the use of their content. Authors and performers will be in a better position to negotiate their remuneration with producers and publishers.

The proposal has been met with some criticism from Google, amongst others. In a statement published on the Googleblog, Caroline Atkinson, Google’s Vice President for Global Policy, said: “We believe there’s a better way. Innovation and partnership—not subsidies and onerous restrictions—are the key to a successful, diverse and sustainable news sector in the EU, and Google is committed to playing its part.”

On the other hand, the proposal was described as a “step in the right direction” by artists and content creators. It is said that this proposal may close the “value gap” which currently exists between the level at which media is consumed on online platforms and the relatively low remuneration received by its creators.

The proposal must be approved by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament prior to coming into effect. The European Commission’s press release on the matter may be found here.

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