EU must update copyright to maintain leading creative sector

Europe's rich cultural diversity cannot be compromised by outdated copyright rules, argues Sabine Verheyen.

By Sabine Verheyen

Sabine Verheyen (EPP, DE) is Chair of Parliament’s Culture and Education Committee

06 May 2015

These days, quickly sharing a picture or downloading a song on the go is a regular occurrence for many people, and downloading something without paying for the content or the service is hardly viewed as illegal.

For this reason, more must be done to raise awareness and promote legal content and its portability within the internal market. It is time for legal certainty. The current EU copyright rules date back to 2001 and are in urgent need of reform.

The fast pace of technical innovation in recent years has meant that technology has now outgrown the legislation. Digitisation does not only make our lives easier in a number of ways, it has also led to challenges for European and national legislators.


European digital economy and society commissioner Günther Oettinger has announced that draft legislation on the topic would be presented in the autumn, and this is a very welcome move.

Parliament has taken a twofold approach to copyright reform, with Pavel Svoboda working on a report on the enforcement of intellectual property rights, and Julia Reda serving as rapporteur on the implementation of the 2001 infosoc directive.

This reform should be seen as an opportunity to strengthen rights and make Europe the place to be for leading creative businesses. The current debates have the potential to alter the European cultural sector in a lasting way.

This is a priority for parliament's EPP group, which is why in March, we set up a working group on the topic, co-chaired by my colleague Pavel Svoboda and I.

The EPP group's aim is for the reform to create an EU-wide legal framework on sustainable copyright legislation. Only then can the cultural diversity and richness of Europe be maintained.

The EU has a lead that it must capitalise on, having the most innovative and diverse creative sectors and huge potential in its languages, whether we are talking about music, film, publishing or other cultural sectors.

In order to maintain this lead, copyright is the fundamental tool for ensuring that creators are incentivised and fairly rewarded for their work. Copyright legislation should, however, also consider the services and interests of all parties involved in the creative value chain.

These include not only creators and consumers, but also intermediaries such as broadcasters or online platforms. A fair and balanced approach is vital for finding a copyright solution that fits today's needs.

In my opinion, there is no doubt that portability of legally acquired and legally made available content within the union should be enhanced. However, the EPP wants to reverse the current monopolisation that has taken hold of the digital market and is therefore against mandatory EU-wide copyright titles and pan-European licences for all works.

Such legislation would mean a limitation of the freedom of contracts for rights holders and devaluation of rights in general. Europe has many different cultural and linguistic environments and as a result, cross-border licensing, while possible, remains an exception.

Most of the content that is requested is local. The current license and exceptions system in place is applied when it is economically beneficial and if there is demand. For copyright legislation to be future-proof, exchange with experts from all parties concerned – the EPP's new working group is one example of how to set up such conversations – is key.

A proactive dialogue is important for MEPs to hear the voices that shape Europe's cultural landscape and help us to protect and promote the cultural richness and diversity that make Europe as exciting as it is.


Read the most recent articles written by Sabine Verheyen - Europe in Recovery: Art for art’s sake

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