The Society of Authors welcomes the latest agreement on the Copyright Directive, reached by negotiators from the European Parliament, Council and Commission. This follows several months of negotiation and weeks of political deadlock. The Directive still needs to be confirmed by member states and MEPs before it is formally adopted.
What is the Copyright Directive?
The Copyright Directive is a piece of EU legislation that seeks to modernise copyright for the digital age. Currently creators and rights-holders are not adequately protected or remunerated when their work is used online, at the same time as tech giants are making millions in profits. They also have little power to ensure that rights they grant are used and that they are fairly remunerated for such use. The Directive will address these imbalances.
The publicity around the Directive has mostly centred around Articles 11 and 13. Article 11 will oblige US tech giants such as Google to negotiate licensing agreements with rights holders before publishing links to their content (for example on Google News). Article 13 will require internet platforms such as YouTube to acquire licences for the content they host and ensure that there is no copyright infringement on their sites. These Articles have been fiercely discussed and negotiated. We are awaiting the final texts but it seems that what has emerged provides a fair balance that will benefit creators and users without being unduly onerous to hosts.
What does it mean for authors, scriptwriters, translators and illustrators?
The Directive also places new obligations upon exploiters of works to the benefit of authors and performers. Under the terms of Article 14, creators will be entitled to transparent information on how their works are being exploited by their publishers. This will make it easier for authors, scriptwriters, translators and illustrators to negotiate future contracts and to receive a fairer share of the generated revenues. If publishers or producers fail to exploit the rights that the creators have transferred to them, authors and performers will be allowed to revoke their rights. In addition, Article 15 introduces a contract adjustment mechanism (or “bestseller clause”) allowing creators to claim additional remuneration when sales are much better than expected. The SoA has been pressing for these provisions for years, and they form key demands of our CREATOR campaign for fairer contracts.
The passage of the Directive has not been straightforward. It was first presented by the Commission in September 2016 and has faced numerous setbacks, including being rejected by the European Parliament last June. Tech multinationals have spent millions on lobbying against the Directive, and have orchestrated a campaign which has often seemed misinformed and characterised by scaremongering. This agreement by negotiators is therefore a very welcome breakthrough.
Nicola Solomon, Chief Executive of the Society of Authors, said:
This is excellent news for all creators and rights-holders. the Copyright Directive is a vital piece of legislation which affirms the rights of creators whose work is used online.
Of critical importance to our members are the provisions contained in Articles 14 to 16. These will require publishers to provide transparent information to writers in all forms and genres, translators and illustrators on how their works are being exploited. The ‘bestseller clause’ will ensure that our members receive the remuneration they deserve when their work does better than expected. And if it isn’t being exploited, creators can get their rights back.
We aren’t celebrating just yet, as the Directive still needs to be confirmed by member states and voted on by MEPs. But this breakthrough following weeks of deadlock comes as a huge relief, and we are optimistic that the Directive will soon be passed into EU law – and then into UK law within the following two years.