Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market


At Directors UK - we represent the the creative, economic and contractual interests of 7000 members – the overwhelming majority of working film and television directors across the UK. Along with other organisations who represent authors we’ve been campaigning for changes to the EU Directive on Copyright to help protect our members and ensure fair remuneration for use of our work on-line. We’ve been calling on MEPs to support the news legislation which will be debated on 12th September. We don’t believe changes in the Copyright Directive will damage the internet. It will continue to protect freedom of expression. And it will support the interests of our creators.

On 12 September, the members of the European Parliament will adopt the Parliament’s position on the draft Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. After several delays, this vote is the last chance for a final adoption of this much-needed Directive before the European elections. It will determine the future for audiovisual authors; if they will have a chance to receive fair and proportionate remuneration for the use of their works across the EU in a near future or if will they be left behind for another decade.

Journalists, publishers & authors should all be paid fairly for their work, whether it's made in studios or living rooms, whether it's disseminated offline or online.

Both the Society of Authors and the British Copyright Council have done a lot of work going through the proposed legislation and explaining what it all means - distinguishing facts from “fake news” hysteria. Here is a summary of what it all means.

What is the Copyright Directive?

The draft “Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market” is an important piece of European Union legislation designed to modernise copyright for the digital age. If passed, it will help ensure a much fairer deal for those working in the creative sector.

Current EU copyright laws were passed in 2001 — three years before the launch of Facebook, four years before YouTube and five years before the arrival of Twitter — and are in urgent need of updating to reflect the way in which creative content is used online today.

The proposed new legislation aims to ensure that individual creators (such as musicians, photographers, authors etc), publishers and performers benefit from the online world in the 21st century. As well as providing three new exceptions to assist users of copyright works, the proposals offer:

  • a new right for press publishers

  • fair compensation for publishers

  • transparency and contract adjustment mechanisms for authors and performers

  • a system to increase the responsibility of internet platforms, such as YouTube and Facebook, for the creative content uploaded on their platforms

The last of these proposals is designed to fix the so-called “value gap” — the yawning disparity between the profits earned by some user upload platforms that pay little or nothing for the use of works such as music and images, and the incomes earned by those who create the content in the first place.

The proposals were first put forward in 2016 and — following two years of debate and amendment — face a crucial vote in the European Parliament on 12 September.

Why we need fair remuneration for use of our work on-line.

Why we need fair remuneration for use of our work on-line.

The Copyright Directive seeks to modernise copyright for the digital age. As well as forcing platforms such as YouTube and Facebook to take greater responsibility for the creative content they host, it contains the following much-needed provisions which would strengthen the rights of authors:

  • A transparency obligation, which would force publishers to be more transparent when reporting information to authors related to accounting and the exploitation of their works.

  • A contract adjustment mechanism (or “bestseller clause”) allowing authors to claim additional remuneration when sales are much better than expected.

  • A dispute resolution mechanism, enabling disputes over these two issues to be submitted to an alternative resolution procedure.

Various tech giants have spent millions of pounds lobbying against the Directive, and their campaign has been characterised by a loop of misinformation and scaremongering – this briefing from the British Copyright Council explains more. This led MEPs to reject the Directive when they first voted on it in July.

Here's a 12-point breakdown (from the Society of Authors) of what the Directive actually is:

  1. Creators and performers are also users of copyright works — it’s about a fair deal for all.

  2. The proposals aim to benefit all creators: professionals will be paid for use of their work, while creators of user-generated content will get all the rights they need through the upload platform.

  3. Most creators are individuals and small businesses — the proposals ask internet giants to follow the offline norm and pay a fair share for creative content used on their platforms.

  4. Creators have always been inspired by works that went before — the proposals don’t stop anyone standing on the shoulders of giants; they hold the ladder.

  5. People will still be able to link to and share other people's content — hyperlinking is explicitly excluded from the proposals.

  6. The proposals state clearly that they don’t apply to online encyclopaedias like Wikipedia and other non-commercial services.

  7. Parody is not threatened (and neither are 'memes') — it’s already covered by an exception to copyright and the proposals say rightsholders can’t prevent uploading of works covered by exceptions.

  8. The proposals aren’t censorship: that’s the very opposite of what most journalists, authors, photographers, film-makers and many other creators devote their lives to.

  9. Not allowing creators to make a living from their work is the real threat to freedom of expression.

  10. Not allowing creators to make a living from their work is the real threat to the free flow of information online.

  11. Not allowing creators to make a living from their work is the real threat to everyone’s digital creativity.

  12. Stopping the directive would be a victory for multinational internet giants at the expense of all those who make, enjoy and enjoy using creative works.

If the Directive is voted down again on 12 September it is unlikely to pass into EU law before the UK leaves the European Union. We will then have lost a once in a generation opportunity to make our copyright law fairer for authors and other workers in the creative sector.

Why we need fair remuneration for use of our work on-line.

Why we need fair remuneration for use of our work on-line.

Steve Smith