EU copyright directive presents opportunities as well as challenges

MEPs are determined to develop a regulatory framework that provides legal certainty, clarity and a level playing field that will not stifle new business development, says Therese Comodini Cachia.

Therese Comodini Cachia | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

By Therese Comodini Cachia

09 Feb 2017

A digital single market that works for the cultural and creative industries requires a copyright framework that ensures digital access to creative content as well as fair remuneration.

Digital technology has been embraced by European citizens in a way that has transformed the way we connect with creative content. People do not see borders online, indeed they do not accept barriers to accessibility for content on a platform that, by its nature, transcends physical barriers.

Similarly, digital technology brings with it an empowerment for the individual to connect with others through the sharing and creation or making available of content. Users today also engage with the creative content itself by transforming, sharing or generating such content.


While this transformation in digital habits offers an opportunity for the creative industries - as it makes content more accessible and brings users and creative content closer to each other - there is no doubt that this has also produced tremors along value chains which now have to deal with those making available such digital technologies, such as platforms. 

The relationship between industries heavily set in the analogue framework and digital technologies is one that poses challenges as well as opportunities. The opportunities can outweigh the challenges especially where a framework of rules ensuring online copyright is based on a clear understanding of what is foundational to digital technology as well as to creators and those who invest in the creation of creative content. 

We must also recognise that what works in the entirely analogue value chain cannot work identically on that same value chain which may now include a digital stakeholder or user.

Digital technology challenges the fragmented regulatory framework related to copyright and demands, as a minimum, a level of rule harmonisation for digital processes such as eLearning and text and data mining.

But digital technologies are quicker at creating new processes than the EU is for adapting regulation and this poses a challenge for any legislator.

Why would I want a directive that works for the algorithm processes we know today, but that may not work for the algorithms planned to be launched sometime soon? What seems set to remain constant - amidst a scenario of a changing digital process - is that users will continue to engage with content and not only passively consume it. 

Users will continue to seek out ways of communicating, creating or transforming content as well as using it. This justifies a copyright regulatory framework setting out the principles of how copyright is expected to work online.

The proposed directive on copyright in the digital single market is an interesting proposal reflecting a long process of trying to bring different mindsets together. When it returns to the basics of copyright protection - demanding that value and its apportionment is characterised by fair remuneration and transparency and where it seeks to empower weak actors - the Commission's proposal is a positive one. 

In two specific areas the Commission has also been bold and is proposing the introduction for a neighbouring right for press publishers and the formulation of specific obligations for platforms hosting user generated content. 

Although each of these proposals has brought with it voices both for and against, it is these two areas where the Commission has been bold that represent highly polarised voices and which raise very pertinent questions.

Parliament has been debating copyright and its functioning within the digital single market for some years.

The Commission's proposal now provides a basis for concluding the discussions. As rapporteur I recognise that this debate has now matured greatly, with stakeholders presenting very clear positions. I have for the last few months been listening to every stakeholder that sought to participate in consultation. 

Working with fellow colleagues the Parliament is set on taking a balanced approach with a determination to see a regulatory framework that provides legal certainty and clarity and a level playing field for stakeholders that will not stifle new business models. 

Be it downloading, streaming, hyperlinking, or hosting user generated content, consumers' demand for cultural and creative content online has driven the creation of new European businesses as well as challenged older structures to transform themselves. 

There is therefore a fine balance to make to ensure that a copyright framework allows new business models to thrive not only alongside traditional business models, but also with these models.


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