Landmark copyright deal empowers creatives and news publishers

Written by Martin Banks on 19 February 2019 in News
News

The European Parliament says that “creatives” and news publishers will be empowered to negotiate with internet giants under a landmark deal reached last week on copyright rules which also contains safeguards on freedom of expression.

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The widely-awaited deal, reached between Parliament and Council negotiators, aims to ensure that the rights and obligations of copyright law also apply to the internet.

YouTube, Facebook and Google News are some of the internet's household names, which will be most directly affected by the legislation.

Legislators also strove to ensure that the internet remains a space for freedom of expression. Snippets from news articles can thus continue to be shared, as can Gifs and memes.


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The deal seeks to enhance the chances of the rights holders - notably musicians, performers and script authors, as well as news publishers - to negotiate better remuneration deals for the use of their works featured on internet platforms.

Parliament says that sharing snippets of news articles “will not engage the rights of the media house which produced the shared article.”

The deal, however, also contains provisions to avoid news aggregators abusing this allowance.

The ‘snippet’ can therefore continue to appear in a Google News newsfeed, for example, or when an article is shared on Facebook, provided it is “very short”.

“This deal is an important step towards correcting a situation which has allowed a few companies to earn huge sums of money without properly remunerating the thousands of creatives and journalists whose work they depend on” Axel Voss MEP

Uploading protected works for purposes of quotation, criticism, review, caricature, parody or pastiche has been protected, ensuring that memes and Gifs will continue to be available and shareable on online platforms.

The agreed text also specifies that uploading works to online encyclopaedias in a non-commercial way, such as Wikipedia, or open-source software platforms, such as GitHub, will automatically be excluded.

Start-up platforms will be subject to lighter obligations than more established ones.

Authors and performers will, under the deal agreed this week, be able to claim additional remuneration from the distributor exploiting their rights when the remuneration originally agreed is disproportionately low compared to the benefits derived by the distributor.

Currently, internet companies have little incentive to sign fair licensing agreements with rights holders, because they are not considered liable for the content that their users upload.

The deal must now be approved by Council representatives and the full Parliament.

Reaction was swift, with Parliament’s rapporteur, German EPP member Axel Voss, saying, “This deal is an important step towards correcting a situation which has allowed a few companies to earn huge sums of money without properly remunerating the thousands of creatives and journalists whose work they depend on.”

'ATTACK ON OPENNESS'

However, the deal was branded an ‘attack on openness’, by the chief executive of Open Knowledge International, Catherine Stihler, a former MEP and vice-chair of the European Parliament’s consumer protection committee.

She said the deal was an attack on openness and that the changes will restrict internet freedoms for millions of users.

“The copyright crackdown will lead to a chilling effect on freedom of speech across the EU. Open data and content must be freely used, modified, and shared by anyone, and this move goes against that principle.”

“It does not enhance citizens’ rights, and could lead to Europe becoming a more closed society – restricting how we share research that could lead to medical breakthroughs or how we share facts to combat the spread of ‘fake news’. I urge MEPs to vote down this proposal,” Stihler added.

“The copyright crackdown will lead to a chilling effect on freedom of speech across the EU. Open data and content must be freely used, modified, and shared by anyone, and this move goes against that principle” Catherine Stihler, Former MEP and CEO of Open Knowledge International

NO MORE FREERIDING

Further comment came from Anders Lassen, president of the European Grouping of Societies of Authors and Composers, who welcomed the decision, saying, “This directive was long awaited in our sector. We still need to have a careful assessment of the final text, but its adoption sends a clear signal that large platforms dominating the online content market at the expense of creators must stop freeriding and comply with copyright rules.”

“We trust that Member States and the European Parliament will now endorse the Directive and give their final approval to this historical breakthrough, without any further delay.”

Véronique Desbrosses, its director general, added, “We are thankful to the European decision-makers for reaching an agreement on this complex and sensitive piece of legislation today. Despite the pressure of tech giants until the very end, the text, which still needs to be assessed in detail, is a major achievement.”

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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