After three years of debate, one of the most controversial pieces of legislation to come before the European parliament is going to the vote on Thursday (Brussels vote may force YouTube to pay billions extra in fees, 2 July).
It is about copyright, and specifically about the rights of creators versus those of the internet giants, and whether or not the internet functions as a fair and efficient marketplace. If we cave to the pressure of these giants, the future of our creative industry is at serious risk.
This is not about censorship of the internet, as the likes of Google and Facebook would have you believe. The primary focus of this legislation is concerned with whether or not the internet functions as a fair and efficient marketplace – and currently it doesn’t. Rightsholders want their content to be enjoyed; they simply want to know what is being enjoyed, by how many, and that they might be paid a fair price for it.
It is important to recognise that article 13 of the proposed EU copyright directive imposes no obligation on users. The obligations relate only to platforms and rightsholders. Contrary to some sensationalist headlines, internet memes will not be affected, as they are already covered by exceptions to copyright, and nothing in the proposed article will allow rightsholders to block the use of them. Online encyclopedias, such as Wikipedia, and open source software services are also specifically excluded.
Actually, article 13 makes it easier for users to create, post and share content online, as it requires platforms to get licences, and rightsholders to ensure these licences cover the acts of all individual users acting in a non–commercial capacity.
Right now it is practically impossible for rightsholders to stop their content appearing if they don’t agree to the commercial terms on offer from these internet giants. Current legislation shields the platforms from liability for copyright infringement.
These consequences are the characteristics of a deeply dysfunctional market and this legislation aims to address them.
This is not censorship; on the contrary, it represents freedom: freedom to invest, freedom to create, freedom for creators to earn a living and to choose how to commercialise the fruits of their labour.
Robert Ashcroft CEO, PRS for Music
Paul Pacifico CEO, The Association of Independent Music
Andy Heath Chair, Beggars Music
Michael Dugher CEO, UK Music
Crispin Hunt Chair, British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (Basca)
Geoff Taylor CEO, BPI & BRIT Awards