Defending your copyright in Brussels and Geneva

THE EDITING of this Freelance has been interleaved with urgent requests from the European Federation of Journalists. We have to form views on amendments to the draft European Directive on copyright matters, on which the Legal Committee of the European Parliament was voting on 20 June.

Will the proposed measure decimate the income authors - including textual and visual journalists - get from copying of our works in educational institutions? We are hopeful of averting this. See the campaign site on this at - it seeks your testimonials on the importance of this matter.

Should newspaper publishers get a new right to charge internet services for using extracts of our works? Only if the new law guarantees us a fair share - and that is predictably under attack from the publishers. Will we get new rights to transparent accounting of how our work is used? We are quietly hopeful.

The Draft Directive also includes a measure requiring internet services to watch out for unauthorised uploads. This could be quite useful to musicians and film-makers. The fact that it has attracted a claim from internet patriarchs Tim Berners-Lee and Vint Cerf that it would "break the internet" suggests that it is, in fact, harmless to the internet and, rather, annoying to Facebook and Google/YouTube.

As EU negotiators are fond of pointing out in another context, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. It remains to be seen how the Commission and the Council that represents member states' governments respond to whatever changes the Parliament proposes.

In other news, Google continues its campaign to butter up the publishers whose business it's flaying by offering tiny fractions of its mountain of cash. One recent example is a reported offer to support Finnish journalists in developing "micro-payment" - that is, pay-per-read - systems.

WIPO conference hall

So, the "informal session" that we civilians can listen to but not report has segued into a two-hour coffee break that we can't hear. A mostly-empty WIPO conference hall on 31 May 2018

And the International Federation of Journalists - representing around 600,000 journalists in 140 countries worldwide, North and South - continues to represent our interests on the global stage. At a UN meeting in Geneva at the end of May it reminded representatives of around 200 countries that "without the dedication of professional authors and performers, publishers have nothing to publish, consumers have only amateur creations to consume, and libraries have little or nothing new to make available."

Update 20 June 2018

The European Parliament's Legal Committee passed a mixed bag of amendments to the draft Directive: see below; and the International Federation of Journalists issued a statement.

Update 20 June

Some of the amendments passed by the European Parliament's Legal Committee (called "JURI") would strengthen the "transparency" provisions.

One asserts the right - in an actual Article of the draft law - of authors (journalists) to a share of income from a "neighbouring right"; but it also adds wording to the preamble of the Directive that courts could use to conclude that we will in effect get nothing. The EFJ is discussing ways to oppose this.

The Draft Directive text now goes to the full (plenary) European Parliament; then there will be negotiations with the EU Commission and the Council.