Online only, so far

New copyright directive is a step in the right direction

...but it could still be improved

AFTER FOUR years' preparation, negotiation and intense lobbying, European Union institutions on 13 February agreed the wording of a proposed Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. This addresses the challenges of the lack of remuneration for authors from the high-tech platforms. It is high time that we get the tools we need to license work protected by authors' rights when it is used by news aggregators, social media corporations and other platforms provided by the high-tech companies.

The new proposal introduces the principle of an appropriate and proportionate remuneration for all authors, including journalists. It places transparency obligations on publishers. It opens up the possibility of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms which could be useful in some EU member states to avoid lengthy and expensive court cases. It also allows authors to be represented by their unions in that process. I welcome that very much.

I also welcome the new article 9a which safeguards extended collective licensing models as they could be models for future licensing in the digital area to ensure remuneration of journalists. This is a visionary approach with a lot of possibilities to make licensing easy and smooth.

There has been much noise about Article 11 of the Directive, which gives newspaper publishers rights to licence to the likes of Google News. It is important to try to improve this. Newspaper publishers and journalists' unions agreed last July that journalists must be remunerated for the payment related to article 11. We should clarify provisions and proposals contained in Article 11 of the text - and Recital 35 that interprets it - to support authors in the press sector obtaining fair and proportionate remuneration for their work in future national legislation that will implement this directive.

We have a huge job in front of us in making sure that member states implement the Directive well. We need in particular close cooperation among all the stakeholders, because it is in the interest of all of us that we will be able to use the tools to bring the digital platforms to the table for negotiation.

Updated 16 February 2019

  • A final vote on the agreed text is expected in the European Parliament in March.
  • Mike Holderness, speaking as chair of the EFJ Authors' Rights Expert Group, adds: "The Directive offers improved rewards for all authors, including reporters, feature writers and photographers. It is not perfect - but it is remarkable that it has survived an onslaught of often-paranoid arguments from groups that, strangely, back the profits of monopoly internet corporations over the interests of the creators on whose work those profits depend. We now need to work hard to counter the onslaught they will launch on the European Parliament for the final vote - and to make sure it is implemented well by Member States."
  • The Commission - the EU's Civil Service - posted an article on saying much the same, at length. It was then removed on the grounds that "it has been understood in a way that doesn't reflect the Commission's position" - but not before it had been archived. More follows if we find out more about why that happened...
  • Entitled "The Copyright Directive: how the mob was told to save the dragon and slay the knight", it noted that the Directive "supports a free press and could enable journalists to get some money when their articles are shared online".
  • It noted that "there is ample evidence from respected sources, here and here and perhaps here or here or indeed here that 'Big Technology' has even 'created' grassroots campaigns against the Copyright Directive in order to make it look and sound as if the EU is acting against the 'will of the people'." That might have had something to do with its removal?
  • It concluded: "So next time, when you get a sponsored message on your timeline, which says something like 'the EU will kill the world wide web as we know it', stop, pause and consider for a moment. Ask yourself: Cui Bono? Who really benefits from this message or this wider negative campaign?"
  • The legality of the Internet Archive has always been in deep doubt, but in this case many or even most of the exceptions to the Commission's copyright apply.