Creating a balance between the rights of creators and the rights of consumers – EU Copyright Reform

Today MEPs voted on a proposal for reform of copyright law in the EU.

The report in question (known as the Reda Report after the German Rapporteur Julia Reda) is an own-initiative report. This means it is non-legislative and will not become law. It is simply an examination by MEPs of the state of play of copyright legislation in the EU and how it could be reformed.

So, if the current document has no legal effect and will not bring about any immediate changes to the law on copyright in the UK, what is the point of the Report?

The European Commission will bring forward its proposals for copyright reform later this year, and today’s Report is a handy guide for the Commission about what the mood is in the Parliament. It sets out the Parliament’s position on copyright and flags up for the Commission what the Parliament is currently thinking and what sort of reforms we would like to see, as well as what we do not want to see!

There are a number of important issues being looked at:

Fair remuneration for creatives

The Report very clearly calls for the need for fair and appropriate remuneration for creatives – to make sure people are paid for their work. Currently we have a position where creators are weak in comparison with larger platforms. A recent French study conducted by Music Business Worldwide (MBW) found that post-tax pay-outs for streaming on Spotify amounted to just 11% for artists while the record labels’ share came to 73% – artists receiving just 68 cent from every €9.99 monthly music streaming subscription! This is not a fair situation.

I want the Commission to look at the role of intermediaries, like record labels, play in the provision of cultural content. It should not be fair for creatives, artists or authors to struggle to survive while, at the same time, their works are making big money for big business.

Accessibility

I am delighted to see that the proposed exemptions for education and for libraries were accepted by MEPs. These exemptions will allow a much wider audience to access content than might otherwise be able to do so and I hope the Commission will bear this in mind when it comes forward with its proposal for copyright reform in the Member States later this year.

Panorama

One issue which really caught people’s interest was Freedom of Panorama rights. Paragraph 46 of the Report sought to restrict the Freedom of Panorama and triggered strong reactions in the media. Labour MEPs publicly stated that they would vote against any amendment which negatively affected the current UK provisions on Freedom of Panorama. However, before the report was voted on in Plenary, MEPs reached an agreement to delete the paragraph from the report and not have any mention of the issue in the report.

When the Commission comes forward with its proposals later this year we will need to make sure this is reflected in it.

What happens next?

The Commission published its proposals for review of the Digital Single Market in May. These proposals include several points concerning reform of copyright law. It signalled its intent to prevent unjustified geo-blocking of content (the practice of restricting access to content based upon the user’s geographical location) across the EU.

The Commission also want to reduce the differences between national copyright regimes and allow for wider online access to works across the EU. Key to this is ensuring that users who buy films, music or articles at home can also enjoy them while travelling across Europe.

The Commission also said it will look at the role of online intermediaries in relation to copyright-protected work and how best to protect creatives and ensure they are fairly remunerated. This is key to ensuring creative industries in Europe can continue to grow and flourish.

The Reda Report tries to balance the rights of authors and performers, on the one hand with enabling access to culture and information on the other side. It sends a strong message to the European Commission. Copyright laws must offer protection in both the physical and digital worlds and we must be careful we don’t tip the balance in one direction only; we must balance the needs of rights-holders with those of the users of copyrighted works.

We will wait for the forthcoming Commission proposal and then the fight begins again to ensure a fair and balanced approach to copyright so we can benefit creators and users alike.