How New EU Copyright Laws Will Affect Content Creators & Publishers
European copyright law has remained unreformed since 2001, when the internet was still in its infancy, when CDs still dominated the music market and when mobile was dominated by WAP. Fast forward to today, and the media scene has been transformed - largely by the disruption of the internet - and as a sector has grown to 7 million jobs across the EU.
Following Jean-Claude Juncker’s 2016 State of the Union speech, the European Commission recently set out several proposals aiming to move forward what it calls a single EU digital market and to eliminate the barriers to online trade between the Member States. The Digital Single Market strategy outlined by Juncker has adopted several key proposals to ensure:
Improved access to online content across member states
Updated copyright legislation in the field of education, research, cultural heritage as well as inclusion of people with disabilities
Creation of a fair marketplace and legal certainty for content creators, all linked industries, and the media
In addition to this, as Juncker pointed out, by 2020, 5G services should be at users’ disposal in at least one major city in each member state. Furthermore, the European Commission estimated that modernizing the digital single market would bring €415 billion to the Union’s budget per year.
What does it mean for content creators?
If approved, the new legislative initiatives as unveiled by Juncker would make it easier for video-on-demand providers to transmit their work across the single European digital market, giving a better choice to the customers. Now, the European television networks acquire exclusive programming licenses for their own country. As per the new regulations, it would become easier for the broadcasters to stream their programming within the EU on online services, such as the BBC’s iPlayer.
Furthermore, the new laws would also increase copyright protection for journalists, newspapers, and magazines, meaning that content creators would be able to seek payment from aggregators such as Google News and Reddit, who link to their original work.
It would also change the way the online video platforms such as YouTube and DailyMotion work. They will be required to use special technology to automatically detect copyright infringement and either compensate the right holder or remove the content.
Why are the new copyright laws so widely criticised?
Although most of the industry players agreed that copyright laws were outdated and reforms were much needed, the proposed measures were and still are subject to massive criticism in Europe and beyond.
Many representatives of the entertainment business welcomed the new measures. However, a great majority of the industry leaders expressed serious concerns about the amendments to the licensing rules for video-on-demand streaming. According to some producers, the pan-European access proposed by the Commission could seriously damage their business model. Currently, the producers generate more revenue by offering exclusive country-per-country licensing. Senior executives of 15 commercial European TV channels recently commented that one of their biggest fear is the “buy 1, get 27 free” effect. Under the newly-proposed rules, the broadcasters from smaller European member states would be able to buy a local license at a more affordable price and then stream it across the EU, undercutting sales to bigger nations.
Many content publishers are also concerned. Some say that the new ancillary copyright could lead to fewer snippets (the short form preview content listed by services like Google) appearing online because of the fear of pressing charges under new laws. Publishers’ businesses could seriously suffer as fewer snippets mean less traffic back to their webpages. They also reminded that similar laws had already been unsuccessfully introduced in Spain and in Germany. Thus, the Spanish publishers experienced a 10 percent to 15-percent reduction in the number of online views. Similarly, after the German snippets legislation failed terribly, the local publishers had to give Google a free license to their content to compensate for their lost traffic.
In addition to that, many video streaming providers questioned the accuracy of the proposed automatic detection systems. They also commented that the new regulations are trying to turn them into copyright enforcement arm of larger media businesses, which could result in abuse.
Are there any exceptions?
Yes, there are. Among the most positive outcomes of the new directive is the new copyright exception applicable to educational institutions and research organisations acting in public interest. It means that teachers in the EU will be able to use materials to illustrate tutoring through digital tools in e-courses.
Another exception would apply to cultural heritage institutions to allow them preserve works digitally.
What are the timings around this new legislation?
The European Parliament needs to revise and approve the draft proposals first. After that, it will send it to each member state for ratification.