Why the copyright directive is crucial for a creative Europe

Written by Emma McClarkin on 12 September 2018 in Opinion

The EU copyright directive represents an invaluable chance to ensure that our artists, designers and musicians are able to continue creating in a fair and balanced environment in the future, writes Emma McClarkin.

Photo credit: Natalie Hill

With the plenary vote in the European Parliament on the revised EU copyright directive fast approaching, it is important to consider why this piece of legislation is integral to a creative Europe.

The EU’s copyright legislation was established long before online platforms such as Facebook and YouTube existed, let alone before their domination of the internet. Now, approximately 400 hours of video content is uploaded to YouTube every minute.

It is essential that we update our laws to reflect an ever-evolving digital economy within which artists and content creators operate. We must ensure that our legislation encourages the fair and sustainable treatment of creators in to the future.


The debate surrounding the revision of the copyright directive in the European Parliament has intensified throughout protracted negotiations. It is therefore now more important than ever to emphasise the benefits of revising this piece of legislation.

For example, Article 13 in the proposed directive is intended to ensure that creators, such as musicians, are appropriately paid for their work. This article is also designed to ensure that online platforms share the revenues they derive from creative works on their sites with creators in a fair and sustainable manner.

In the text of the proposed directive, if one of the main purposes of an online platform were to share, optimise and derive profit from copyrighted works, then the platform would need to obtain a fair licence with creators.

This is only applicable if rightsholders request the platform obtain a licence. If not, then platforms will need to check for and remove copyrighted content themselves. For example, this could include pirated films, which are on platforms at the same time as they are being shown in the cinema.

This ‘value gap’ between creators and the online platforms that currently fail to reward them appropriately must be addressed. Article 13 of the draft directive represents an essential tool for closing this ‘value gap’.

Platforms are a popular and useful tool for users and creators alike, but care needs to be taken over use of content, and creators should be fairly rewarded for their work. To this end, the use of content recognition technology as stipulated by the directive will help ensure that creators can be better identified and paid.

Nonetheless, it is important that the measures introduced by the revised directive are fair and proportionate to everyone. This is why Parliament's ECR group is dedicated to striking a balance between appropriately rewarding rightsholders and safeguarding the rights of internet users.

For example, content recognition technology should not be used at the expense of users' rights. The main purpose of countless online platforms is not to share, optimise nor derive profit from online works, and consequently these platforms would not be required to obtain a licence.

A revised directive must be fit for the digital age, and cognisant of both internet users and rightsholders’ needs.

The creative industries contribute an estimated £92bn to the UK economy alone, and the revision of the directive represents an invaluable chance to ensure that our artists, designers and musicians are able to continue creating in a fair and balanced environment in the future.

While the text of the directive is not perfect, it is a step in the right direction for finding solutions and ensuring rightsholders are respected in this 21st century digital economy.

About the author

Emma McClarkin (UK) is Parliament's culture and education committee ECR group shadow opinion rapporteur on copyright in the digital single market


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